The challenge of mild traumatic brain injury: role of biochemical markers in diagnosis of brain damage

Med Res Rev. 2014 May;34(3):503-31. doi: 10.1002/med.21295. Epub 2013 Jun 28.


During the past decade there has been an increasing recognition of the incidence of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and a better understanding of the subtle neurological and cognitive deficits that may result from it. A substantial, albeit suboptimal, effort has been made to define diagnostic criteria for mTBI and improve diagnostic accuracy. Thus, biomarkers that can accurately and objectively detect brain injury after mTBI and, ideally, aid in clinical management are needed. In this review, we discuss the current research on serum biomarkers for mTBI including their rationale and diagnostic performances. Sensitive and specific biomarkers reflecting brain injury can provide important information regarding TBI pathophysiology and serve as candidate markers for predicting abnormal computed tomography findings and/or the development of residual deficits in patients who sustain an mTBI. We also outline the roles of biomarkers in settings of specific interest including pediatric TBI, sports concussions and military injuries, and provide perspectives on the validation of such markers for use in the clinic. Finally, emerging proteomics-based strategies for identifying novel markers will be discussed.

Keywords: biomarkers; concussion; diagnostic; mild TBI; traumatic brain injury.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / blood
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Brain Concussion / blood
  • Brain Concussion / diagnosis
  • Brain Injuries / blood
  • Brain Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Brain Injuries / metabolism*
  • Decision Making
  • Humans


  • Biomarkers