Association of CSF and Serum Neurofilament Light and Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein, Injury Severity, and Outcome in Spinal Cord Injury

Sophie Stukas, Jennifer Cooper, Jasmine Gill, Nader Fallah, Michael A. Skinnider, Lise Belanger, Leanna Ritchie, Angela Tsang, Kevin Dong, Femke Streijger, John Street, Scott Paquette, Tamir Ailon, Nicolas Dea, Raphaele Charest-Morin, Charles G. Fisher, Christopher S. Bailey, Sanjay Dhall, Jean Marc Mac-Thiong, Jefferson R. WilsonSean Christie, Marcel F. Dvorak, Cheryl L. Wellington, Brian K. Kwon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background and ObjectivesTraumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) is highly heterogeneous, and tools to better delineate pathophysiology and recovery are needed. Our objective was to profile the response of 2 biomarkers, neurofilament light (NF-L) and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), in the serum and CSF of patients with acute SCI to evaluate their ability to objectively characterize injury severity and predict neurologic recovery.MethodsBlood and CSF samples were obtained from prospectively enrolled patients with acute SCI through days 1-4 postinjury, and the concentration of NF-L and GFAP was quantified using Simoa technology. Neurologic assessments defined the ASIA Impairment Scale (AIS) grade and motor score (MS) at presentation and 6 months postinjury.ResultsOne hundred eighteen patients with acute SCI (78 AIS A, 20 AIS B, and 20 AIS C) were enrolled, with 113 (96%) completing 6-month follow-up. NF-L and GFAP levels were strongly associated between paired serum and CSF specimens, were both increased with injury severity, and distinguished among baseline AIS grades. Serum NF-L and GFAP were significantly (p = 0.02 to <0.0001) higher in AIS A patients who did not improve at 6 months, predicting AIS grade conversion with a sensitivity and specificity (95% CI) of 76% (61, 87) and 77% (55, 92) using NF-L and 72% (57, 84) and 77% (55, 92) using GFAP at 72 hours, respectively. Independent of clinical baseline assessment, a serum NF-L threshold of 170 pg/mL at 72 hours predicted those patients who would be classified as motor complete (AIS A/B) compared with motor incomplete (AIS C/D) at 6 months with a sensitivity of 87% (76, 94) and specificity of 84% (69, 94); a serum GFAP threshold of 13,180 pg/mL at 72 hours yielded a sensitivity of 90% (80, 96) and specificity of 84% (69, 94).DiscussionThe potential for NF-L and GFAP to classify injury severity and predict outcome after acute SCI will be useful for patient stratification and prognostication in clinical trials and inform communication of prognosis.Classification of EvidenceThis study provides Class I evidence that higher serum NF-L and GFAP are associated with worse neurological outcome after acute SCI.Trial Registration InformationRegistered on NCT00135278 (March 2006) and NCT01279811 (January 2012).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1221-E1233
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 21 2023
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology


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