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Crit Care. 2005;9(6):R790-7. Epub 2005 Nov 16.

Intensive insulin therapy does not alter the inflammatory response in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting: a randomized controlled trial [ISRCTN95608630].

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  • 1Department of Intensive Care, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Geert Grooteplein 10, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands.



Strict control of plasma glucose in diabetic and non-diabetic patients has been shown to improve outcome in several clinical settings. There is extensive evidence that glucose can stimulate the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and IL-6, with no effect on the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10. We hypothesized that strict glucose regulation results in a change in cytokine balance from a pro-inflammatory state to a more balanced anti-inflammatory condition. In a randomized controlled trial we studied the effect of strict glycemic control on the local and systemic pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory balance in non-diabetic patients undergoing elective coronary artery bypass grafting with cardiopulmonary bypass.


After surgery patients were randomly assigned to intensive insulin therapy (blood glucose between 80 and 110 mg/dl) or conventional insulin therapy (blood glucose less than 200 mg/dl). At 0, 1, 2, 4, 8, 12, 16 and 24 hours after admission to the intensive care unit, plasma samples and samples from the mediastinal drains were obtained. We measured the concentrations of the pro-inflammatory cytokines TNF-alpha and IL-6 and the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.


Both patient groups were comparable in demographics, clinical characteristics and peri-operative data. In the intensive treatment group, glucose levels were significantly lower than in the conventionally treated group. No differences were found between both groups in the concentrations of TNF-alpha, IL-6 and IL-10 in plasma samples or in fluid draining the mediastinal cavity. Levels of IL-6 and IL-10 were significantly higher in mediastinal fluid samples than in plasma samples, suggesting a compartmentalized production of cytokines.


The protective effect of intensive insulin therapy in patients after cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass is not related to a change in cytokine balance from a pro-inflammatory to an anti-inflammatory pattern. Systemic cytokine levels are not representative of the local inflammatory response.

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