Neurorehabil Neural Repair, Feb 2021

Routine Blood Chemistry Predicts Functional Recovery After Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury: A Post Hoc Analysis

Iris Leister, Lukas D Linde, Anh Khoa Vo, Thomas Haider, Georg Mattiassich, Lukas Grassner, Wolfgang Schaden, Herbert Resch, Catherine R Jutzeler, Fred H Geisler, John L K Kramer, Ludwig Aigner


Background: Spinal cord injury (SCI) leads to various degrees of lifelong functional deficits. Most individuals with incomplete SCI experience a certain degree of functional recovery, especially within the first-year postinjury. However, this is difficult to predict, and surrogate biomarkers are urgently needed.

Objective: We aimed to (1) determine if routine blood chemistry parameters are related to neurological recovery after SCI, (2) evaluate if such parameters could predict functional recovery, and (3) establish cutoff values that could inform clinical decision-making.

Methods: We performed a post hoc analysis of routine blood chemistry parameters in patients with traumatic SCI (n = 676). Blood samples were collected between 24 and 72 hours as well as at 1, 2, 4, 8, and 52 weeks postinjury. Linear mixed models, regression analysis, and unbiased recursive partitioning (URP) of blood chemistry data were used to relate to and predict walking recovery 1 year postinjury.

Results: The temporal profile of platelet counts and serum levels of albumin, alkaline phosphatase, and creatinine differentiated patients who recovered walking from those who remained wheelchair bound. The 4 blood chemistry parameters from the sample collection 8 weeks postinjury predicted functional recovery observed 1 year after incomplete SCI. Finally, URP defined a cutoff for serum albumin at 3.7 g/dL, which in combination with baseline injury severity differentiates individuals who regain ambulation from those not able to walk. Specifically, about 80% of those with albumin >3.7 g/dL recovered walking.

Conclusions: Routine blood chemistry data from the postacute phase, together with baseline injury severity, predict functional outcome after incomplete SCI.

Keywords: biomarkers; blood cell count; blood chemical analysis; outcome prediction; routine diagnostic tests; spinal cord injury.


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