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N Engl J Med. 1989 Aug 3;321(5):280-7.

The cardiovascular response of normal humans to the administration of endotoxin.

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  • 1Critical Care Medicine Department, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


Marked abnormalities in cardiovascular function accompany septic shock, and bacterial endotoxin is believed to be one of the principal mediators of these abnormalities. To evaluate the cardiovascular effects of endotoxemia in humans, we measured hemodynamic variables in nine normal subjects given an intravenous bolus dose of endotoxin (Escherichia coli, 4 ng per kilogram of body weight) and in six normal subjects given a bolus dose of saline, before and three hours after administration. All the subjects then underwent volume loading with normal saline (mean, 2217 ml) during the fourth and fifth hours after administration of the bolus, and the measurements were repeated. Three hours after the administration of endotoxin and before volume loading, the cardiac index had increased by 53 percent and the heart rate by 36 percent (both changes were significant; P less than or equal to 0.008), and the systemic vascular-resistance index had decreased by 46 percent (P = 0.004). After volume loading (five hours after the administration of endotoxin), the left ventricular ejection fraction decreased by 1 percent of the base-line value in the subjects given endotoxin, but increased by 14 percent in the controls (P = 0.008). The left ventricular end-diastolic and end-systolic volume indexes increased by 18 percent (P = 0.07) and 24 percent (P = 0.042), respectively. Left ventricular performance, as measured by the ratio of the peak systolic pressure to the end-systolic volume index, was depressed (a decrease of 0.90 in the subjects given endotoxin vs. an increase of 0.76 in the controls; P = 0.024). We conclude that the administration of endotoxin to normal subjects causes a depression of left ventricular function that is independent of changes in left ventricular volume or vascular resistance. The changes in function are similar to those observed in septic shock and suggest that endotoxin is a major mediator of the cardiovascular dysfunction in this condition.

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