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Transplantation. 1996 Oct 15;62(7):916-20.

Neutrophil elastase: a determinant of endothelial damage and reperfusion injury after liver transplantation?

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  • 1Scottish Liver Transplant Unit, The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Scotland.


Reperfusion injury has been implicated in the development of primary graft dysfunction (PGD) after liver transplantation. Neutrophil migration and activation may be involved in the pathogenesis of this injury. We studied neutrophil activation and its role in the etiology of PGD by measuring neutrophil elastase by radioimmunoassay, in serial blood samples of 19 patients before, during, and for 24 hr after transplantation. In a subgroup of patients, we also measured soluble thrombomodulin at the same time points as a marker of endothelial damage. The pretransplant elastase level was significantly raised (40.13+/-4.84 ng/ml, mean+/-SEM) compared with levels of healthy controls (18.7+/-5.6 ng/ml, P<0.05). A marked increase in elastase activity followed reperfusion, with a peak at 2 hr (370+/-50.5 ng/ml, P<0.01). Thereafter, there was a decline, but elastase remained elevated at 24 hr (186+/-60.94 ng/ml). The mean increase in neutrophil elastase after reperfusion correlated significantly with markers of graft function (P<0.05) and with the mean rise in soluble thrombomodulin (P=0.042), which increased from a pretransplant level of 81.2+/-11.32 to 186+/-50.4 ng/ml, 6 hr after reperfusion (P<0.05). The results of this study indicate that marked neutrophil activation and endothelial cell damage occurs after graft reperfusion during orthotopic liver transplantation, and the degree of activation correlates with markers of graft function, which may suggest a role in the etiology of PGD.

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