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Serum phosphorylated neurofilament heavy chain as a diagnostic biomarker for progressive myelomalacia in dogs with thoracolumbar intervertebral disc herniation

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Serum phosphorylated neurofilament-heavy chain (pNF-H) has not been longitudinally evaluated in dogs that develop progressive myelomalacia (PMM) after Type I intervertebral disc herniation (IVDH).


To determine if serum pNF-H concentrations would predict outcome of neuroligical disease in dogs with acute, severe thoracolumbar myelopathy secondary to Type I IVDH.


Thirty-nine client-owned dogs with thoracolumbar myelopathy secondary to IVDH.


Prospective controlled cohort study. Serum was collected from dogs undergoing hemilaminectomy at multiple timepoints. Final neurological status was established at 12 months and groups were stratified accordingly. Comparisons between outcome and pNF-H concentration at each timepoint was examined using Kruskal-Wallis analysis of variance on ranks and receiver operator characteristics curve analysis.


Median serum pNF-H concentrations were not significantly different between deep pain negative dogs that did or did not recover at any timepoint (baseline: 0.37 ng/mL [0-0.9 ng/mL] vs 0 ng/mL [0-0.9 ng/mL], P > 1; 24 hours: 1.25 ng/mL [0.35-7.23 ng/mL] vs 1.53 ng/mL [0-11.94 ng/mL], P > 1; 48 hours: 1.22 ng/mL [0.63-6.62 ng/mL] vs 2.12 ng/mL [0-20.72 ng/mL], P >  1; 72 hours: 2.77 ng/mL [1.33-6.62 ng/mL] vs 16.69 ng/mL [4.02-40.12 ng/mL], P >  1). Dogs that developed PMM had significantly higher serum pNF-H concentrations after surgery compared to all other cohorts at 24 hours: 39.88 ng/mL (25.74-50.68 ng/mL); P < .05 and 72 hours: 223.9 ng/mL (155.4-263.7 ng/mL); P < .05. A serum pNF-H concentration ≥31.39 ng/mL was 83.33% sensitive and 100% specific for identifying PMM in this cohort.

Conclusions and clinical importance

Serum pNF-H is a promising biomarker for antemortem diagnosis of PMM in dogs with acute, severe thoracolumbar myelopathy secondary to Type I IVDH.

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