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Ann Surg. 1993 Dec;218(6):769-76.

Cytokine patterns in patients after major vascular surgery, hemorrhagic shock, and severe blunt trauma. Relation with subsequent adult respiratory distress syndrome and multiple organ failure.

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Department of Surgery, University Hospital Nijmegen, The Netherlands.



This study investigates the course of serum cytokine levels in patients with multiple trauma, patients with a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), and patients undergoing elective AAA repair and the relationship of these cytokines to the development of adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and multiple organ failure (MOF).


Severe tissue trauma, hemorrhagic shock, and ischemia-reperfusion injury are pathophysiologic mechanisms that may result in an excessive uncontrolled activation of inflammatory cells and mediators. This inflammatory response is thought to play a key role in the development of (remote) cell and organ dysfunction, which is the basis of ARDS and MOF.


The study concerns 28 patients with multiple trauma, 20 patients admitted in shock because of a ruptured AAA, and 18 patients undergoing elective AAA repair. Arterial blood was serially sampled from admission (or at the start of elective operation) to day 13 in the intensive care unit, and the serum concentrations of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin (IL)-1 beta, and IL-6 were determined.


Twenty-two patients died, 15 within 48 hours and 7 after several weeks, as a result of ARDS/MOF. At hospital admission and after 6 hours, these nonsurvivors had significantly higher plasma TNF-alpha and IL-1 beta levels than did the survivors. At the same measuring points, TNF-alpha and IL-1 beta were significantly more elevated in patients with ruptured AAA than in traumatized patients. However, IL-6 was significantly higher in the traumatized patients. In 10 patients, ARDS/MOF developed, and 41 had an uncomplicated course in this respect. Those with ARDS/MOF exhibited significantly different cytokine patterns in the early postinjury phase. TNF-alpha and IL-1 beta levels were higher mainly on the first day of admission; IL-6 concentrations were significantly elevated in patients with ARDS/MOF from the second day onward. The latter cytokine showed a good correlation with the daily MOF score during the whole 2-week observation period.


In the early postinjury phase, higher concentrations of these cytokines are associated, not only with an increased mortality rate, but also with an increased risk for subsequent ARDS and MOF. These data therefore support the concept that these syndromes are caused by an overwhelming autodestructive inflammatory response.

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