OBJECTIVES: The present study aimed at the analysis of release patterns of neurobiochemical markers of brain damage (neuron specific enolase (NSE) and protein S-100B) in patients with traumatic brain injury and their predictive value with respect to the short and long term neuropsychological outcome. METHODS: Serial NSE and S-100B concentrations were analysed in blood samples taken at the first, second, and third day after traumatic brain injury. In 69 patients who fulfilled the inclusion criteria (no history of neurological or psychiatric disorder or alcohol or drug dependency, blood sampling according to the scheduled time scale, aged between 16 and 65 years) standardised neurological examinations and qualitative and quantitative evaluation of CT were performed. Comprehensive neuropsychological assessment was performed in 39 subjects 2 weeks after admission and in 29 subjects at a 6 month follow up examination. RESULTS: Most patients presented with minor head injuries (GCS>/=13) at the time of admission. Six months later most patients were fully independent in activities of daily living. Two thirds of the patients, however, still had neuropsychological dysfunction. Patients with short and long term neuropsychological disorders had significantly higher NSE and S-100B serum concentrations and a significantly longer lasting release of both markers. A comparative analysis of the predictive value of clinical, neuroradiological, and biochemical data showed initial S-100B values above 140 ng/l to have the highest predictive power. CONCLUSIONS: The analysis of post-traumatic release patterns of neurobiochemical markers of brain damage might help to identify patients with traumatic brain injury who run a risk of long term neuropsychological dysfunction.
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