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Br J Anaesth. 2002 Apr;88(4):496-501.

Dexamethasone decreases the pro- to anti-inflammatory cytokine ratio during cardiac surgery.

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  • 1Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Amphia Hospital, Breda, The Netherlands.



Cytokines regulate inflammation associated with cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB). Pro-inflammatory cytokines may cause myocardial dysfunction and haemodynamic instability after CPB, but the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines is potentially protective. We studied the effects of dexamethasone on pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine responses during coronary artery bypass grafting surgery.


Seventeen patients were studied: nine patients received dexamethasone 100 mg before induction of anaesthesia (group 1) and eight patients acted as controls (group 2). Plasma levels of tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, IL-10 and IL-4 were measured perioperatively.


TNF-alpha and IL-8 did not increase significantly in group 1 whereas they increased in group 2 to greater than preoperative values (P<0.05). IL-6 increased in both groups, with lower values in group 1 than in group 2 (P<0.05). IL-10 increased in both groups, with higher values in group 1 (P<0.05). IL-4 did not change in group 1 but decreased in group 2 compared with pre-induction values (P<0.05). After surgery, patients in group 2 had tachycardia, hyperthermia, a greater respiratory rate and higher pulmonary artery pressure, and a longer stay in the intensive care unit.


Dexamethasone given before cardiac surgery changes circulating cytokines in an anti-inflammatory direction. Postoperative outcome may be improved by inhibition of the systemic inflammatory response.

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