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Crit Care Med. 1995 Dec;23(12):1976-83.

Immunodepression following neurosurgical procedures.

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Department of Medical Immunology, University Hospital Charité, Berlin Humboldt University, Germany.



To determine the influence of a selective, sterile central nervous system surgery on immune reactivity, particularly whether a decrease of monocytic human leukocyte antigen-DR expression, indicating immunodepression, occurs after neurosurgery and if this measurement is useful for identification of patients with a high risk of infection.


Prospective study.


Department of neurosurgery and intensive care unit in a university hospital.


Blood samples were obtained from 46 patients at least once during the first 3 days after undergoing sterile central nervous system surgery. Fourteen of these patients developed infectious complications as defined by clinical and microbiological criteria. In ten of 46 patients, paired samples of blood and cerebrospinal fluid were collected from a ventricle drain at the following times: 1 day before surgery; several times on the day of surgery; and every day after surgery for at least 6 days.


Monocytic human leukocyte antigen-DR expression, as measured by flow cytometry on days 1 through 3 after surgery in 46 patients, was lower in 14 patients who developed infection after neurosurgery (p < .0001). In all ten closely monitored patients, monocytic human leukocyte antigen-DR expression decreased temporarily after surgery. Of these patients, only one patient showed a persistent and considerably decreased monocytic human leukocyte antigen-DR expression. This patient was the only patient in this subgroup who developed sepsis syndrome. In order to assess whether the monocytic human leukocyte antigen-DR decrease was associated with a preceding inflammatory response, local and systemic concentrations of interleukin (IL)-1 beta, IL-6, IL-8, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and interferon-gamma were measured in this subgroup. These cytokines were not detectable in plasma during the first days after surgery. In contrast, considerable increases of IL-6 and IL-8 concentrations were detectable in cerebrospinal fluid within hours after surgery.


A decrease of monocytic human leukocyte antigen-DR expression occurs after neurosurgery and is associated with a preceding, strong, intracranial (but not systemic) inflammatory response. A very low monocytic human leukocyte antigen-DR expression (< 30% positive monocytes) suggests the possibility of infection. Measurement of monocytic human leukocyte antigen-DR expression could help to detect patients with a high risk of infection after neurosurgery. Our results suggest that even sterile central nervous system surgery may contribute to general immunodepression. The local intracranial inflammatory response may be involved in this process.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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