Early heparin administration after traumatic brain injury: Prolonged cognitive recovery associated with reduced cerebral edema and neutrophil sequestration

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Early administration of unfractionated heparin (UFH) after traumatic brain injury (TBI) reduces early in vivo circulating leukocytes (LEUs) in peri-injury penumbral brain tissue, enhancing cognitive recovery 2 days after injury. It remains unclear how long this effect lasts and if this is related to persistently accumulating LEUs in penumbral brain tissue. We hypothesized that UFH reduces LEU brain tissue sequestration resulting in prolonged cognitive recovery.

METHODS

CD1 male mice underwent either TBI by controlled cortical impact (CCI) or sham craniotomy. Unfractionated heparin (75 or 225 U/kg) or vehicle was repeatedly administered after TBI. Neurologic function (Garcia Neurological Test [maximum score = 18]) and body weight loss ratios were evaluated at 24 hours to 96 hours after TBI. Brain and lung wet-to-dry ratios, hemoglobin levels, and brain LEU sequestration (Ly6G immunohistochemistry) were evaluated 96 hours postmortem. Analysis of variance with Bonferroni correction determined significance (p < 0.05).

RESULTS

Compared with untreated CCI animals (24 hours, 14.7 ± 1.0; 48 hours, 15.5 ± 0.7; 72 hours, 15.0 ± 0.8; 96 hours, 16.5 ± 0.9), UFH75 (24 hours, 16.0 ± 1.0, p < 0.01; 48 hours, 16.5 ± 0.7, p < 0.05; 72 hours, 17.1 ± 0.6, p < 0.01; 96 hours, 17.4 ± 0.7, p < 0.05) increased cognitive recovery throughout the entire observation period after TBI. At 48 hours, UFH225 significantly worsened body weight loss (10.2 ± 4.7%) as compared with uninjured animals (5.5 ± 2.9%, p < 0.05). Both UFH75 (60.8 ± 40.9 PMNs per high-power field [HPF], p < 0.05) and UFH225 (36.0 ± 17.6 PMNs/HPF, p < 0.01) significantly decreased brain neutrophil sequestration found in untreated CCI animals (124.2 ± 44.1 PMNs/HPF) 96 hours after TBI. Compared with untreated CCI animals (78.8 ± 0.8%), UFH75 (77.3 ± 0.6%, p = 0.04) reduced cerebral edema to uninjured levels (77.4 ± 0.6%, p = 0.04 vs. CCI). Only UFH225 (10.6 ± 1.2 g/dL) resulted in lower hemoglobin than in uninjured animals (13.0 ± 1.2 g/dL, p < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS

Heparin after TBI reduces tissue LEU sequestration and edema in injured brain for up to 4 days. This is associated with persistent improved cognitive recovery, but only when low-dose UFH is given. Early administration of UFH following TBI may blunt LEU-related cerebral swelling and slow progression of secondary brain injury.

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