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Radiat Res. 2013 Sep;180(3):276-83. doi: 10.1667/RR3104.1. Epub 2013 Jul 30.

Combined radiation and burn injury results in exaggerated early pulmonary inflammation.

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  • 1a Burn and Shock Trauma Institute, Department of Surgery, and Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, Illinois 60153;


Events such as a nuclear meltdown accident or nuclear attack have potential for severe radiation injuries. Radiation injury frequently occurs in combination with other forms of trauma, most often burns. Thus far, combined injury studies have focused mainly on skin wound healing and damage to the gut. Since both radiation exposure and remote burn have pulmonary consequences, we examined the early effects of combined injury on the lung. C57BL/6 male mice were irradiated with 5 Gy of total body irradiation followed by a 15% total body surface area scald burn. Lungs from surviving animals were examined for evidence of inflammation and pneumonitis. At 48 h post-injury, pathology of the lungs from combined injury mice showed greater inflammation compared to all other treatment groups, with marked red blood cell and leukocyte congestion of the pulmonary vasculature. There was excessive leukocyte accumulation, primarily neutrophils, in the vasculature and interstitium, with occasional cells in the alveolar space. At 24 and 48 h post-injury, myeloperoxidase levels in lungs of combined injury mice were elevated compared to all other treatment groups (P < 0.01), confirming histological evidence of neutrophil accumulation. Pulmonary levels of the neutrophil chemoattractant KC (CXCL1) were 3 times above that of either injury alone (P < 0.05). Further, monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1, CCL2) was increased two- and threefold compared to burn injury or radiation injury, respectively (P < 0.05). Together, these data suggest that combined radiation and burn injury augments early pulmonary congestion and inflammation. Currently, countermeasures for this unique type of injury are extremely limited. Further research is needed to elucidate the mechanisms behind the synergistic effects of combined injury in order to develop appropriate treatments.

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