Background: The aim was to investigate the early diagnostic value of serum glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase (UCH-L1) levels in adults with minor head trauma (MHT) and whether it could be an alternative diagnostic method to computed tomography (CT). This is the first study with the combination of GFAP and UCH-L1 in the first 3 hours of MHT.
Methods: The study comprised 88 patients, 60 patients and 28 controls, who were evaluated as having MHT, were admitted to the emergency department of our hospital within the first 3 hours of the trauma and met the inclusion criteria. CT was performed on all patients. Serum GFAP and UCH-L1 levels were measured within the first 3 hours of the trauma.
Results: The median serum GFAP level was 1.07 ng/mL in the group with pathology on CT and 0.42 ng/mL in the group with no pathology on CT. The median serum UCH-L1 level was 0.40 ng/mL in the group with pathology on CT and 0.39 ng/mL in the group with no pathology on CT. A statistically significant difference was found between the serum GFAP levels of the CT (+) group and the CT (-) group (p = 0.021). GFAP levels were compared according to the CT (+) and CT (-) groups with a cutoff value of ≥ 1.56 ng/mL for GFAP, which had 50% sensitivity and 97.5% specificity. This was statistically significant (p = 0.008). It was found that the UCH-L1 level of the control group was lower than the UCH-L1 levels of the CT (+) and CT (-) groups, and this difference was found to be statistically significant (p = 0.003 and p = 0.018, respectively).
Conclusions: GFAP was found to be more specific than UCH-L1 in demonstrating the presence of intracranial pathology in patients with head trauma who were admitted to the emergency department in the first 3 hours after trauma.