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Ann Surg. 1985 Nov;202(5):580-6.

Changes in T lymphocyte subsets following injury. Assessment by flow cytometry and relationship to sepsis.


The increased susceptibility of severely injured patients to infection and death from sepsis has been attributed to abnormalities in cell-mediated immunity. The authors therefore assessed the relative number of peripheral blood T helper cells and T suppressor/cytotoxic cells and total T lymphocytes identified by the monoclonal antibodies (McA) OKT4, OKT8, and OKT3, respectively, in 25 patients with burns from 5 to 85% total body surface area (TBSA) (mean: 40%) and 21 patients with nonthermal injuries (mean Injury Severity Score (ISS): 21.4). Patients were compared to 21 healthy controls. Cells reacting with the McA were detected by flow cytometry, which enabled the examination of a population of cells the size of T lymphocytes, excluding larger contaminating cells that might bind the McA. Patients with burns of 30% TBSA or greater had a significant reduction (p less than or equal to 0.05) in OKT3+ cells up to 50 days post-burn. Both septic and nonseptic burn patients had reduced numbers of OKT3+ cells, as did patients after nonthermal injury, suggesting that this reduction was due to the injury itself. Patients with smaller burns (less than 30% TBSA) as a group did not have reduced OKT4+ cells, whereas those with larger burns showed significant reductions in OKT4+ cells (P less than or equal to 0.05) at 0 to 5, 6 to 10, 11 to 20, 21 to 30, and 41 to 50 days post-burn. Seven burn patients who became septic 10 days post-burn or later had significantly lower OKT4+ cells within 10 days of injury (mean: 33.75% +/- 7.4 SEM) than 10 patients who remained free of sepsis (mean: 42.2% +/- 5.4, p = 0.004). Patients with uncomplicated nonthermal injuries failed to show any significant reduction in OKT4+ cells. Following thermal injury, a reduction in OKT8+ cells was observed up to 10 days in patients with burns less than 30% TBSA, and up to 20 days in patients with larger burns. In both groups, at no time were increased OKT8+ cells found to correlate with clinical events. In patients with nonthermal injury, OKT8+ cells generally remained near the normal range.

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