Patients who undergo major surgery for cancer are at high risk of postoperative infection. Postoperative immunosuppression may be due to dysregulation of cytokine production. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between changes in serum proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokine concentrations and postoperative septic complications after major surgery.
Serial blood samples were collected from 30 consecutive patients for determination of serum cytokine levels. Healthy volunteers were used as the control group.
Eleven patients developed no complications (group 1), 14 developed sepsis or severe sepsis (group 2), and five developed septic shock (group 3). On day 1 the patients in groups 2 and 3 had significantly higher levels of interleukin (IL) 6 than those in group 1. IL-6 levels remained high until day 5. Tumour necrosis factor (TNF), IL-1, interferon (IFN) γ and IL-12 levels were not affected by surgical trauma or by the occurrence of septic complications. After operation the circulating IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) concentration was increased in all groups, but patients in group 3 had significantly higher levels of IL-1ra than those in group 1. IL-1ra levels correlated with IL-6 levels. The pattern of IL-10 levels was similar to that of IL-1ra levels.
Serum concentrations of proinflammatory cytokines (TNF, IL-1, IFN-γ and IL-12) were not affected by operation or the occurrence of septic complications. The postoperative increase in IL-6 concentration was associated with septic morbidity, while raised IL-1ra concentration was associated with postoperative septic shock. © 2002 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd