OBJECTIVE: We aimed to describe the relationship between early peripheral leukocyte apoptosis and incidence of subsequent infection in trauma patients with hemorrhagic shock (T/HS).
METHODS: T/HS patients requiring emergency surgery were prospectively enrolled. Nucleosome ELISA and TUNEL staining were performed on peripheral blood drawn pre-operatively, post-operatively and at 24 h. Subjects were followed for 30 days or until death or hospital discharge to record all episodes of infection.
RESULTS: Forty-one subjects were enrolled. Six died within 24 h of surgery and were not included in the analysis. Nucleosome levels peaked post-operatively and dropped to baseline levels at 24 h (p = 0.03). TUNEL analysis revealed that polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) accounted for 72% of apoptotic leukocytes; the remaining apoptotic cells were mainly lymphocytes. Increased post-operative leukocyte apoptosis was associated with decreased systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) severity. Seventeen of the 35 survivors (48.6%) developed infections, while 18 (51.4%) did not. Pre-operative and post-operative nucleosome levels were 2.5 and 3 times higher, respectively, in T/HS patients who did not develop infection compared to those who did. Increased nucleosome levels were associated in particular with protection against sepsis (p=0.03) and multiple infections (p = 0.01).
CONCLUSION: Peripheral blood PMN apoptosis in the early resuscitative period is associated with decreased incidence of subsequent infection in T/HS patients.
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