Major trauma increases vulnerability to systemic infections due to poorly defined immunosuppressive mechanisms. It confers no evolutionary advantage. Our objective was to develop better biomarkers of post-traumatic immunosuppression (PTI) and to extend our observation that PTI was reversed by anti-coagulated salvaged blood transfusion, in the knowledge that others have shown that non-anti-coagulated (fibrinolysed) salvaged blood was immunosuppressive.
A prospective non-randomized cohort study of patients undergoing primary total knee arthroplasty included 25 who received salvaged blood transfusions collected post-operatively into acid–citrate–dextrose anti-coagulant (ASBT cohort), and 18 non-transfused patients (NSBT cohort). Biomarkers of sterile trauma included haematological values, damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs), cytokines and chemokines. Salvaged blood was analysed within 1 and 6 h after commencing collection. Biomarkers were expressed as fold-changes over preoperative values. Certain biomarkers of sterile trauma were common to all 43 patients, including supranormal levels of: interleukin (IL)-6, IL-1-receptor-antagonist, IL-8, heat shock protein-70 and calgranulin-S100-A8/9. Other proinflammatory biomarkers which were subnormal in NSBT became supranormal in ASBT patients, including IL-1β, IL-2, IL-17A, interferon (IFN)-γ, tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α and annexin-A2. Furthermore, ASBT exhibited subnormal levels of anti-inflammatory biomarkers: IL-4, IL-5, IL-10 and IL-13. Salvaged blood analyses revealed sustained high levels of IL-9, IL-10 and certain DAMPs, including calgranulin-S100-A8/9, alpha-defensin and heat shock proteins 27, 60 and 70. Active synthesis during salvaged blood collection yielded increasingly elevated levels of annexin-A2, IL-1β, Il-1-receptor-antagonist, IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12p70, IL-17A, IFN-γ, TNF-α, transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1, monocyte chemotactic protein-1 and macrophage inflammatory protein-1α. Elevated levels of high-mobility group-box protein-1 decreased. In conclusion, we demonstrated that anti-coagulated salvaged blood reversed PTI, and was attributed to immune stimulants generated during salvaged blood collection.