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Keywords:

  • melatonin;
  • pineal;
  • burns;
  • human;
  • sympathetic nervous system

Burn injury in humans or rats is a model of marked elevation of general sympathetic activity for weeks, manifested in part by increased heart rate, metabolic rate, core temperature, and plasma and urinary catecholamines. Plasma melatonin was sampled at 2-h intervals for 24 h in 9 control subjects and 11 patients with severe burn injury. Daytime melatonin was not different between the groups, but nighttime values were significantly lower in the burn patients. A nocturnal surge was still significant in the patients. Resting heart rate and rectal temperature were elevated in the burn patients. In male Spraguc-Dawley rats, pineal melatonin content did not differ between controls and those with an experimental burn at 4 h into the light phase nor during the nocturnal surge. Male Syrian hamsters with burns had lower daytime pineal melatonin content than did controls, but the nocturnal surge in pineal melatonin was not significantly different between groups, nor was daytime morning serum melatonin. Sympathetic activity appears partitioned, with that controlling melatonin (nocturnal surge) regulated independently. In agreement with our previous findings in other models, melatonin is not a marker for general sympathetic activity, even following severe burn injury.