Damage from brain surgery can be shown through blood tests

There is a new way to evaluate how the treatment of tumors affects the brain.
Loukia Papadopoulos
An illustration of a brain tumor.jpg
An illustration of a brain tumor.

Mohammed Haneefa Nizamudeen/iStock 

A new study reveals that damage to the brains of patients operated on for brain tumors may be assessed by measuring biomarkers in the blood pre-and postoperatively. 

This is according to a press release by the University of Gothenburg published on Tuesday.

In a new study, researchers show that the increase in markers tallies well with the impairment caused by insufficient blood flow. 

Today, MRI can identify bleeding (hemorrhage) and brain areas impaired by inadequate blood flow (ischemia) after a brain tumor operation. But that may not always be enough.

“MRI scans can’t always provide sufficiently detailed information about the degree of cell injury. In the long run, the new biomarkers could bridge this knowledge gap and offer more accurate and objective assessments of impairment due to brain tumor surgery,” said Isak Michaëlsson, a doctoral student at the University of Gothenburg and resident in neurosurgery at Sahlgrenska University Hospital. 

New biomarkers have been trialed in patients operated on for brain tumors and are today well-studied within neurological diseases, particularly Alzheimer's and other dementias. The markers are neurofilament light (NfL), glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), and tau protein. 

NfL is a marker for damage to nerve cell fibers, GFAP for injury to the brain’s supportive cells, and tau for nerve-cell impairment.  

The study considered 34 adult patients with glioma, one of the most common types of brain tumor. 

The research indicated that the levels of markers in the blood correlate both with the extent of injury caused by lack of oxygen that occurred during surgery and with the severity of neurological deficit suffered by the patients.  

Now scientists are stating that measuring biomarkers in blood samples may become a new way to evaluate injuries caused by neurosurgery. 

“It’s also conceivable that high levels of these markers might be signs of damage that could cause brain fatigue or other cognitive problems for the patients in the somewhat longer term. If so, the markers could be used to identify patients at an early stage so that they get the right kind of rehabilitation,” Michaëlsson concluded in the statement.

The new study is published in the scientific journal Neurosurgery. 

Study abstract:

Clinical methods to quantify brain injury related to neurosurgery are scarce. Circulating brain injury biomarkers have recently gained increased interest as new ultrasensitive measurement techniques have enabled quantification of brain injury through blood sampling.

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