Circulating retinol binding protein 4 in critically ill patients before specific treatment: prognostic impact and correlation with organ function, metabolism and inflammation

Alexander Koch, Ralf Weiskirchen, Edouard Sanson, Henning W Zimmermann, Sebastian Voigt, Hanna Dückers, Christian Trautwein, Frank Tacke
Critical Care: the Official Journal of the Critical Care Forum 2010, 14 (5): R179

INTRODUCTION: Hyperglycemia and insulin resistance are well-known features of critical illness and impact the mortality rate, especially in sepsis. Retinol binding protein 4 (RBP4) promotes insulin resistance in mice and is systemically elevated in patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes. We investigated the potential role of RBP4 in critically ill patients.

METHODS: We conducted a prospective single-center study of serum RBP4 concentrations in critically ill patients. One hundred twenty-three patients (85 with sepsis, 38 without sepsis) were studied at admission to a medical intensive care unit (ICU) before initiation of specific intensive care treatment measures and compared to 42 healthy nondiabetic controls. Clinical data, various laboratory parameters and metabolic and endocrine functions were assessed. Patients were followed for approximately 3 years.

RESULTS: Serum RBP4 was significantly reduced in ICU patients, independently of sepsis, as compared to healthy controls (P < 0.001). Patients with liver cirrhosis as the primary underlying diagnosis for ICU admission had significantly lower RBP4 levels as compared with other ICU patients. Accordingly, in all ICU patients, serum RBP4 closely correlated with liver function and increased with renal failure. No significant differences of serum RBP4 concentrations in septic patients with pulmonary or other origins of sepsis or nonseptic patients could be revealed. Acute phase proteins were inversely correlated with RBP4 in sepsis patients. RBP4 did not differ between patients with or without obesity or preexisting diabetes. However, serum RBP4 levels correlated with endogenous insulin secretion (C-peptide) and insulin resistance (HOMA index). Low serum RBP4 upon admission was an adverse predictor of short-term survival in the ICU, but was not associated with overall survival during long-term follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS: Serum RBP4 concentrations are significantly reduced in critically ill patients. The strong associations with hepatic and renal function, insulin resistance and acute mortality collectively suggest a role of RBP4 in the pathogenesis of critical illness, possibly as a negative acute phase reactant, and allow a proposition as a potential novel biomarker for ICU patients.

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