Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are caused by a hit to the head or a sudden acceleration/deceleration movement of the head. Mild TBIs (mTBI) and concussions are difficult to diagnose. Imaging techniques often fail to find alterations in the brain, and computed tomography (CT) exposes the patient to radiation. Brain-specific biomolecules that are released upon cellular damage serve another means of diagnosing TBI and assessing the severity of injury. These biomarkers can be detected from samples of body fluids using laboratory tests. Dozens of TBI biomarkers have been studied and research related to them is increasing. We reviewed the recent literature and selected 12 biomarkers relevant to rapid and accurate diagnostics of TBI for further evaluation. The objective was especially to get a view of the temporal profiles of the biomarkers’ rise and decline after a TBI event. Most biomarkers are rapidly elevated after injury and they serve as diagnostics tools for some days. There are also some biomarkers that are elevated for months after injury though the literature on long-term biomarkers is scarce. Clinical utilization of TBI biomarkers is still at a very early phase despite years of active research.
Significance Statement: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a common problem, called a ‘silent epidemic’ because of a general unawareness of the condition. TBI is difficult to diagnose with imaging techniques, and there is no definite laboratory test to support the diagnosis. An undiagnosed case of TBI can result in premature “return to play” with severe consequences, or in a chronic neurodegenerative condition later in life. An ideal laboratory test, detecting a brain injury-specific biomarker in one of the body fluids, would confirm or rule-out the TBI, predict the outcome, and indicate when recovery is complete. This article reviews recent research on brain injury biomarkers that could be utilized for rapid and accurate diagnostics of TBI in easily accessible fluid samples.
1 Authors report no conflict of interest.
3 Manuscript has been written at company’s own cost.