Microvascular function and rheologic changes in hyperdynamic sepsis.

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OBJECTIVE: To investigate the rheologic changes and circulatory abnormalities at the microvascular level during severe sepsis.

DESIGN: Prospective, controlled trial.

SETTING: Medical and surgical intensive care units of a university-affiliated hospital.

PATIENTS: Nine normal controls and eight adult patients with severe sepsis who met the study entrance criteria.

INTERVENTIONS: Forearm blood flow was measured at rest and during reactive hyperemia by air plethysmography. Simultaneous hemodynamic measurements and blood samples for rheologic measurements were taken.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Red blood cell deformability index was determined using a simple filtration procedure. Leukocyte aggregation in whole human blood was detected by using a leukergy test. Expression of the neutrophil adhesion molecule CD11b/CD18 was measured using a monoclonal antibody and flow cytometry. All data were taken within 24 hrs of the patient meeting criteria for entrance into the study. Cardiac output, oxygen delivery, and oxygen consumption measurements were consistent with the hyperdynamic phase of severe sepsis. Forearm blood flow was significantly (p < .05) greater in septic patients (21 +/- 3 mL/min) than in controls (12 +/- 2 to 36 +/- 5 mL/min (p < .05), while in the septic patients, forearm blood flow during reactive hyperemia increased from 21 +/- 3 to 32 +/- 4 mL/min. The ratio of forearm blood flow during reactive hyperemia to forearm blood flow at rest was 3.2 +/- 0.1 in the controls and 1.6 +/- 0.1 in the septic patients (p < .01). The red blood cell deformability index in whole blood was significantly (p < .01) decreased in the septic patients compared with the control subjects (0.41 +/- 0.07 vs. 0.98 +/- 0.08 mL/min). This difference remained true when the hematocrit was adjusted to 45% (0.82 +/- 0.06 vs. 1.04 +/- 0.06 mL/min; p < .05). Increased expression of the neutrophil adhesion molecule CD11b/CD18 was observed in septic patients (349 +/- 46 logarithmic fluorescence units) as compared with control subjects (233 +/- 26 logarithmic fluorescence units; p < .05). Leukergy was also significantly (p < .05) increased in septic patients (17.7 +/- 3.8%) as compared with control subjects (8.9 +/- 1.6%). A significant correlation was observed between leukergy and the expression of the neutrophil adhesion molecule CD11b/CD18 in controls and septic patients (r2 = .62; p < .01). Leukergy was also inversely correlated with whole blood red blood cell deformability index (r2 = .28; p < .05).

CONCLUSIONS: Reactive hyperemia in the forearm is significantly diminished in patients with sepsis, suggesting impaired microvascular blood flow. Rheologic changes, including impaired red blood cell deformability, increased leukocyte aggregation, and endothelial adherence, may contribute to this abnormality by compromising effective capillary cross-sectional area.





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Medicine and Health Sciences




Department of Medicine

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