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Shock. 2004 Jul;22(1):51-6.

Blunt chest trauma induces delayed splenic immunosuppression.

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Department of Trauma, Hand and Reconstructive Surgery, University of Ulm, 89075 Ulm, Germany.


Severe blunt chest trauma is frequently associated with multiple organ failure and sepsis. Posttraumatic immunosuppression seems to play a major role in their development. However, the immunologic alterations following pulmonary contusion are insufficiently elucidated. Specifically, it remains unknown whether immunocompetent cells located distant from the site of the impact are affected. We therefore aimed to characterize the influence of pulmonary contusion on lymphocytes and splenic macrophages. Male C3H/HeN mice (n = 8-10/group) were anesthetized and subjected to trauma or sham procedure. Blunt chest trauma was induced by a blast wave focused on the thorax. Two or 24 h later, splenocytes and splenic macrophages were isolated and stimulated for 48 h. The cytokine release (IFN-gamma, IL-2, IL-3, IL-10, IL-12, IL-18) from splenocytes as well as from splenic macrophages (TNF-alpha, IL-10, IL-12, IL-18) and plasma levels of TNF-alpha and IL-6 were quantified by ELISA. The results indicate that at 2 h after blunt chest trauma, plasma TNF-alpha and IL-6 were markedly increased. At the same time, no differences in splenocyte cytokine production were detectable. However, at 24 h a significantly depressed cytokine release was observed in trauma animals. Furthermore, splenic macrophages showed a significantly decreased production of TNF-alpha, IL-10, and IL-12 at 24 h and markedly increased release of IL-18 at 2 h after trauma. These results indicate that blunt chest trauma causes severe immunodysfunction of lymphocytes and splenic macrophages. Thus, lung contusion as a localized type of trauma causes dysfunction of immunocompetent cell populations, which are located distant from the site of injury.

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