BMC Neurol. 2023 Aug 15;23(1):304. doi: 10.1186/s12883-023-03284-6.
BACKGROUND: It is known that blood levels of neurofilament light (NF-L) and diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DW-MRI) are both associated with outcome of patients with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). Here, we sought to examine the association between admission levels of plasma NF-L and white matter (WM) integrity in post-acute stage DW-MRI in patients with mTBI.
METHODS: Ninety-three patients with mTBI (GCS ≥ 13), blood sample for NF-L within 24 h of admission, and DW-MRI ≥ 90 days post-injury (median = 229) were included. Mean fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (AD), and radial diffusivity (RD) were calculated from the skeletonized WM tracts of the whole brain. Outcome was assessed using the Extended Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOSE) at the time of imaging. Patients were divided into CT-positive and -negative, and complete (GOSE = 8) and incomplete recovery (GOSE < 8) groups.
RESULTS: The levels of NF-L and FA correlated negatively in the whole cohort (p = 0.002), in CT-positive patients (p = 0.016), and in those with incomplete recovery (p = 0.005). The same groups showed a positive correlation with mean MD, AD, and RD (p < 0.001-p = 0.011). In CT-negative patients or in patients with full recovery, significant correlations were not found.
CONCLUSION: In patients with mTBI, the significant correlation between NF-L levels at admission and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) measurements of diffuse axonal injury (DAI) over more than 3 months suggests that the early levels of plasma NF-L may associate with the presence of DAI at a later phase of TBI.