Post-traumatic hypoxia is associated with prolonged cerebral cytokine production, higher serum biomarker levels, and poor outcome in patients with severe traumatic brain injury

J Neurotrauma. 2014 Apr 1;31(7):618-29. doi: 10.1089/neu.2013.3087. Epub 2014 Jan 9.


Secondary hypoxia is a known contributor to adverse outcomes in patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Based on the evidence that hypoxia and TBI in isolation induce neuroinflammation, we investigated whether TBI combined with hypoxia enhances cerebral cytokine production. We also explored whether increased concentrations of injury biomarkers discriminate between hypoxic (Hx) and normoxic (Nx) patients, correlate to worse outcome, and depend on blood-brain barrier (BBB) dysfunction. Forty-two TBI patients with Glasgow Coma Scale ≤8 were recruited. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and serum were collected over 6 days. Patients were divided into Hx (n=22) and Nx (n=20) groups. Eight cytokines were measured in the CSF; albumin, S100, myelin basic protein (MBP) and neuronal specific enolase (NSE) were quantified in serum. CSF/serum albumin quotient was calculated for BBB function. Glasgow Outcome Scale Extended (GOSE) was assessed at 6 months post-TBI. Production of granulocye macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) was higher, and profiles of GM-CSF, interferon (IFN)-γ and, to a lesser extent, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), were prolonged in the CSF of Hx but not Nx patients at 4-5 days post-TBI. Interleukin (IL)-2, IL-4, IL-6, and IL-10 increased similarly in both Hx and Nx groups. S100, MBP, and NSE were significantly higher in Hx patients with unfavorable outcome. Among these three biomarkers, S100 showed the strongest correlations to GOSE after TBI-Hx. Elevated CSF/serum albumin quotients lasted for 5 days post-TBI and displayed similar profiles in Hx and Nx patients. We demonstrate for the first time that post-TBI hypoxia is associated with prolonged neuroinflammation, amplified extravasation of biomarkers, and poor outcome. S100 and MBP could be implemented to track the occurrence of post-TBI hypoxia, and prompt adequate treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / pathology
  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Cytokines / analysis
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia, Brain / complications
  • Hypoxia, Brain / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines