New marker to assess brain damage after cardiac arrest

A study published by the researchers at Lund University in Sweden, Tobias Cronberg and Niklas Mattsson shows that serum tau levels can be a promising marker for identifying patients with severe brain damage after cardiac arrest. Another study, which they worked on with Marion Moseby Knappe, investigated serum NFL with a hypersensitive investigation technology.

It was found that NFL was an excellent marker for identifying the degree of brain damage after cardiac arrest. NFL was also compared with three other biomarkers, including tau and other standard methods used to predict outcome in patients after cardiac arrest, said Marion Moseby Knappe, a neurologist at Skåne University Hospital in Lund, Sweden.


Patients who have been resuscitated after cardiac arrest are often unconscious for the first few days due to brain damage, and around half of them die. Using neurophysiological measurements, radiological and neurological examinations, physicians obtain a picture of the extent of the patient’s brain damage. This information then forms the basis for decisions on continuing or terminating life-supporting treatment.


The new method consists of a simple blood test and can make these assessments more secure. “However, it is important to emphasise that the method is new and has so far only been used in a research context. If these results can be confirmed in further studies, in future, it might be possible to assess prognosis for recovery after cardiac arrest even earlier than we do today. Thereby, we could also spare patients and their loved ones unnecessary suffering and make healthcare more efficient”, says Tobias Cronberg, consultant neurologist at the Centre for Cardiac Arrest at Lund University and Skåne University Hospital.


The researchers found that, twenty-four hours after cardiac arrest, the blood levels of NFL already corresponded very well with the patients’ neurological function levels six months later. NFL also appear to help in identifying patients with a low degree of brain damage, which could be significant for patients who have a chance of waking up.


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