Nervous tissue damage markers in cerebrospinal fluid after cervical spine injuries and whiplash trauma

J Neurotrauma. 2003 Sep;20(9):853-8. doi: 10.1089/089771503322385782.


Clinical examination is the only tool available to assess the extent of the nerve tissue damage after a spinal cord injury, and it is well known that the reliability of classification based on clinical examination is not satisfactory, especially in cases with incomplete motor injuries. There is a need to evaluate new methods in order to improve the possibilities of classifying and prognosticating spinal cord injuries. Methods for assessing central nervous system (CNS) damage using markers in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) have recently been developed. Previous studies have reported glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAp) and neurofilament protein (NFL) levels in non-traumatic diseases in the central nervous system. The present study is the first report of GFAp and NFL levels in CSF after trauma to the cervical spine. Six cases with cord damage and pronounced neurological deficit showed significantly increased concentrations of both GFAp and NFL in the CSF. Patients with tetrapareses showed higher values than those with incomplete injuries. Three of the 17 whiplash cases had increased levels of NFL, but normal GFAp. Assessment of nervous tissue markers in CSF will probably improve possibilities to classify and prognosticate spinal cord injuries and also to evaluate pharmacological intervention. The increased levels of NFL in three whiplash cases indicate neural damage in a proportion of the cases with neurological deficit. Neurological examinations are presently the only tools for grading and prognostication of spinal cord injuries. Assessment of nervous tissue markers in CSF makes it possible to quantify the degree of nerve cell damage after different types of cervical spine injury ranging from spinal cord lesions to whiplash injuries.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries
  • Female
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurofilament Proteins / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Whiplash Injuries / cerebrospinal fluid*


  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Neurofilament Proteins