GFAP-BDP as an acute diagnostic marker in traumatic brain injury: results from the prospective transforming research and clinical knowledge in traumatic brain injury study

J Neurotrauma. 2013 Sep 1;30(17):1490-7. doi: 10.1089/neu.2013.2883. Epub 2013 Aug 1.


Reliable diagnosis of traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major public health need. Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) is expressed in the central nervous system, and breakdown products (GFAP-BDP) are released following parenchymal brain injury. Here, we evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of elevated levels of plasma GFAP-BDP in TBI. Participants were identified as part of the prospective Transforming Research And Clinical Knowledge in Traumatic Brain Injury (TRACK-TBI) Study. Acute plasma samples (<24 h post-injury) were collected from patients presenting with brain injury who had CT imaging. The ability of GFAP-BDP level to discriminate patients with demonstrable traumatic lesions on CT, and with failure to return to pre-injury baseline at 6 months, was evaluated by the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC). Of the 215 patients included for analysis, 83% had mild, 4% had moderate, and 13% had severe TBI; 54% had acute traumatic lesions on CT. The ability of GFAP-BDP level to discriminate patients with traumatic lesions on CT as evaluated by AUC was 0.88 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.84-0.93). The optimal cutoff of 0.68 ng/mL for plasma GFAP-BDP level was associated with a 21.61 odds ratio for traumatic findings on head CT. Discriminatory ability of unfavorable 6 month outcome was lower, AUC 0.65 (95% CI, 0.55-0.74), with a 2.07 odds ratio. GFAP-BDP levels reliably distinguish the presence and severity of CT scan findings in TBI patients. Although these findings confirm and extend prior studies, a larger prospective trial is still needed to validate the use of GFAP-BDP as a routine diagnostic biomarker for patient care and clinical research. The term "mild" continues to be a misnomer for this patient population, and underscores the need for evolving classification strategies for TBI targeted therapy. ( number NCT01565551; NIH Grant 1RC2 NS069409).

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Brain Injuries / blood*
  • Brain Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / blood*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein

Associated data