Role of cerebral inflammation after traumatic brain injury: a revisited concept

Shock. 2001 Sep;16(3):165-77. doi: 10.1097/00024382-200116030-00001.


Neuroinflammation occuring after traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a complex phenomenon comprising distinct cellular and molecular events involving the injured as well as the healthy cerebral tissue. Although immunoactivation only represents a one of the many cascades initiated in the pathophysiology of TBI, the exact function of each mediator, activated cell types or pathophysiological mechanism, needs to be further elucidated. It is widely accepted that inflammatory events display dual and opposing roles promoting, on the one hand, the repair of the injured tissue and, on the other hand, causing additional brain damage mediated by the numerous neurotoxic substances released. Most of the data supporting these hypotheses derive from experimental work based on both animal models and cultured neuronal cells. More recently, evidence has been provided that a complete elimination of selected inflammatory mediators is rather detrimental as shown by the attenuation of neurological recovery. However, there are conflicting results reported on this issue which strongly depend on the experimental setting used. The history of immunoactivation in neurotrauma is the subject of this review article, giving particular emphasis to the comparison of clinical versus experimental studies performed over the last 10 years. These results also are evaluated with respect to other neuropathologies, which are years ahead as compared to the research in TBI. The possible reciprocal influence of peripheral and intrathecal activation of the immune system will also be discussed. To conclude, the future directions of research in the field of neurotrauma is considered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Brain Injuries / metabolism
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Cell Death
  • Complement C3 / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1 / physiology
  • Interleukin-6 / physiology
  • Interleukin-8 / physiology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism


  • Complement C3
  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-8
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1