Acute CSF interleukin-6 trajectories after TBI: Associations with neuroinflammation, polytrauma, and outcome

R. G. Kumar, M. L. Diamond, J. A. Boles, R. P. Berger, S. A. Tisherman, P. M. Kochanek, A. K. Wagner

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113 Scopus citations


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) results in a significant inflammatory burden that perpetuates the production of inflammatory mediators and biomarkers. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a pro-inflammatory cytokine known to be elevated after trauma, and a major contributor to the inflammatory response following TBI. Previous studies have investigated associations between IL-6 and outcome following TBI, but to date, studies have been inconsistent in their conclusions. We hypothesized that cohort heterogeneity, temporal inflammatory profiles, and concurrent inflammatory marker associations are critical to characterize when targeting subpopulations for anti-inflammatory therapies. Toward this objective, we used serial cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples to generate temporal acute IL-6 trajectory (TRAJ) profiles in a prospective cohort of adults with severe TBI (n=114). We examined the impact of injury type on IL-6 profiles, and how IL-6 profiles impact sub-acute (2weeks-3months) serum inflammatory marker load and long-term global outcome 6-12months post-injury. There were two distinct acute CSF IL-6 profiles, a high and low TRAJ group. Individuals in the high TRAJ had increased odds of unfavorable Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) scores at 6months (adjusted OR=3.436, 95% CI: 1.259, 9.380). Individuals in the high TRAJ also had higher mean acute CSF inflammatory load compared to individuals in the low TRAJ (p≤0.05). The two groups did not differ with respect acute serum profiles; however, individuals in the high CSF IL-6 TRAJ also had higher mean sub-acute serum IL-1β and IL-6 levels compared with the low TRAJ group (p≤0.05). Lastly, injury type (isolated TBI vs. TBI+polytrauma) was associated with IL-6 TRAJ group (χ2=5.31, p=0.02). Specifically, there was 70% concordance between those with TBI+polytrauma and the low TRAJ; in contrast, isolated TBI was similarly distributed between TRAJ groups. These data provide evidence that sustained, elevated levels of CSF IL-6 are associated with an increased inflammatory load, and these increases are associated with increased odds for unfavorable global outcomes in the first year following TBI. Future studies should explore additional factors contributing to IL-6 elevations, and therapies to mitigate its detrimental effects on outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-262
Number of pages10
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation
  • Interleukin-6
  • Rehabilomics
  • TBI


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