The Course of Serum Inflammatory Biomarkers Following Whiplash Injury and their Relationship to Sensory and Muscle Measures: A Longitudinal Cohort Study
SOURCE: PLoS One. 2013 (Oct 17); 8 (10): e77903
Michele Sterling, James M. Elliott, and Peter J. Cabot
Centre of National Research on Disability and Rehabilitation Medicine (CONROD),
The University of Queensland, Brisbane,
Tissue damage or pathological alterations are not detectable in the majority of people with whiplash associated disorders (WAD). Widespread hyperalgisa, morphological muscle changes and psychological distress are common features of WAD. However little is known about the presence of inflammation and its association with symptom persistence or the clinical presentation of WAD. This study aimed to prospectively investigate changes in serum inflammatory biomarker levels from the acute (<3 weeks) to chronic (>3 months) stages of whiplash injury.
It also aimed to determine relationships between biomarker levels and hyperalgesia, fatty muscle infiltrates of the cervical extensors identified on MRI and psychological factors. 40 volunteers with acute WAD and 18 healthy controls participated. Participants with WAD were classified at 3 months as recovered/mild disability or having moderate/severe disability using the Neck Disability Index. At baseline both WAD groups showed elevated serum levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) but by 3 months levels remained elevated only in the moderate/severe group.
The recovered/mild disability WAD group had higher levels of TNF-α at both time points than both the moderate/severe WAD group and healthy controls. There were no differences found in serum IL-1β. Moderate relationships were found between hyperalgesia and CRP at both time points and between hyperalgesia and IL-1β 3 months post injury. There was a moderate negative correlation between TNF-α and amount of fatty muscle infiltrate and pain intensity at 3 months.
Only a weak relationship was found between CRP and pain catastrophising and no relationship between biomarker levels and posttraumatic stress symptoms. The results of the study indicate that inflammatory biomarkers may play a role in outcomes following whiplash injury as well as being associated with hyperalgesia and fatty muscle infiltrate in the cervical extensors.
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