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Surgery. 1995 Aug;118(2):358-64; discussion 364-5.

Postinjury neutrophil priming and activation: an early vulnerable window.

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Department of Surgery, Denver General Hospital, CO 80204, USA.



Generation of extracellular, cytotoxic superoxide anion (O2-) by polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) contributes to an unbridled inflammatory response that can precipitate multiple organ failure (MOF). Release of O2- is markedly enhanced when activated PMNs have been previously "primed" by inflammatory mediators, such as those expressed after trauma. We therefore hypothesized that PMN priming occurs as an integral part of the early inflammatory response to trauma.


PMNs were obtained from 17 high-risk patients with torso trauma at 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, and 72 hours after injury, as well as from 10 healthy donors, and the in vitro release of O2- was quantitated with a kinetic, superoxide dismutase (SOD)-inhibitable cytochrome c reduction assay. PMN O2- release was measured in the presence and absence of 1 mumol/L N-formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (fMLP) and after priming and activation with 20 nmol/L platelet-activating factor (PAF) and 1 mumol/L fMLP, respectively.


In vitro PMN O2- release was used to determine whether postinjury PMNs were (1) activated in vivo, (2) primed in vivo, or (3) primable in vitro. Unstimulated PMNs from trauma patients spontaneously expressed modest amounts of O2- in vitro from 6 to 48 hours after injury, suggesting endogenous activation. Also, fMLP-activated PMNs collected between 3 and 24 hours after injury expressed more O2- than controls (p < or = 0.02), indicating in vivo, trauma-related priming. Furthermore, postinjury PMNs were maximally primed in vivo (i.e., in vitro exposure to PAF before fMLP activation failed to significantly enhance O2- release) as compared to PMNs treated with fMLP.


These data indicate that major torso trauma (first hit) primes and activates PMNs within 3 to 6 hours after injury. Consequently, we postulate that postinjury priming of PMNs may create an early vulnerable window during which a second hit (e.g., a secondary operation or delayed hemorrhage) activates exuberant PMN O2- release, rendering the injured patient at high risk for MOF.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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