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BMC Surg. 2004 Sep 13;4:10.

Radiation enteropathy and leucocyte-endothelial cell reactions in a refined small bowel model.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Malmö University Hospital, Lund University, Malmö, Sweden.



Leucocyte recruitment and inflammation are key features of high dose radiation-induced tissue injury. The inflammatory response in the gut may be more pronounced following radiotherapy due to its high bacterial load in comparison to the response in other organs. We designed a model to enable us to study the effects of radiation on leucocyte-endothelium interactions and on intestinal microflora in the murine ileum. This model enables us to study specifically the local effects of radiation therapy.


A midline laparotomy was performed in male C57/Bl6 mice and a five-centimetre segment of ileum is irradiated using the chamber. Leucocyte responses (rolling and adhesion) were then analysed in ileal venules 2 - 48 hours after high dose irradiation, made possible by an inverted approach using intravital fluorescence microscopy. Furthermore, intestinal microflora, myeloperoxidase (MPO) and cell histology were analysed.


The highest and most reproducible increase in leucocyte rolling was exhibited 2 hours after high dose irradiation whereas leucocyte adhesion was greatest after 16 hours. Radiation reduced the intestinal microflora count compared to sham animals with a significant decrease in the aerobic count after 2 hours of radiation. Further, the total aerobic counts, Enterobacteriaceae and Lactobacillus decreased significantly after 16 hours. In the radiation groups, the bacterial count showed a progressive increase from 2 to 24 hours after radiation.


This study presents a refinement of a previous method of examining mechanisms of radiation enteropathy, and a new approach at investigating radiation induced leucocyte responses in the ileal microcirculation. Radiation induced maximum leucocyte rolling at 2 hours and adhesion peaked at 16 hours. It also reduces the microflora count, which then starts to increase steadily afterwards. This model may be instrumental in developing strategies against pathological recruitment of leucocytes and changes in intestinal microflora in the small bowel after radiotherapy.

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