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Crit Care. 2013 Oct 7;17(5):R225. doi: 10.1186/cc13048.

Severe burn and disuse in the rat independently adversely impact body composition and adipokines.



Severe trauma is accompanied by a period of hypermetabolism and disuse. In this study, a rat model was used to determine the effects of burn and disuse independently and in combination on body composition, food intake and adipokines.


Male rats were assigned to four groups 1) sham ambulatory (SA), 2) sham hindlimb unloaded (SH), 3) 40% total body surface area full thickness scald burn ambulatory (BA) and 4) burn and hindlimb unloaded (BH). Animals designated to the SH and BH groups were placed in a tail traction system and their hindlimbs unloaded. Animals were followed for 14 days. Plasma, urine, fecal and tissue samples were analyzed.


SA had a progressive increase in body mass (BM), SH and BA no change and BH a reduction. Compared to SA, BM was reduced by 10% in both SH and BA and by 17% when combined in BH. Compared to SA, all groups had reductions in lean and fat body mass with BH being greater. The decrease in lean mass was associated with the rate of urinary corticosterone excretion. The loss in fat mass was associated with decreases in plasma leptin and adiponectin and an increase in ghrelin. Following the acute response to injury, BH had a greater food intake per 100 g BM. Food intake was associated with the levels of leptin, adiponectin and ghrelin.


The effects of the combination of burn and disuse in this animal model were additive, therefore in assessing metabolic changes with severe trauma both injury and disuse should be considered. Furthermore, the observed changes in adipokines, corticosterone and ghrelin provide insights for interventions to attenuate the hypermetabolic state following injury, possibly reducing catabolism and muscle loss and subsequent adverse effects on recovery and function.

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