Microvascular changes explain the "two-hit" theory of multiple organ failure

R N Garrison, D A Spain, M A Wilson, P A Keelen, P D Harris
Annals of Surgery 1998, 227 (6): 851-60

OBJECTIVE: The objective was to determine intestinal microvascular endothelial cell control after sequential hemorrhage and bacteremia.

SUMMARY BACKGROUND DATA: Sepsis that follows severe hemorrhagic shock often results in multiple system organ failure (MSOF) and death. The sequential nature of this clinical scenario has led to the idea of a "two-hit" theory for the development of MSOF, the hallmark of which is peripheral vasodilation and acidosis. Acute bacteremia alone results in persistent intestinal vasoconstriction and mucosal hypoperfusion. Little experimental data exist to support the pathogenesis of vascular dysregulation during sequential physiologic insults. We postulate that hemorrhagic shock followed by bacteremia results in altered microvascular endothelial cell control of dilation and blood flow.

METHODS: Rats underwent volume hemorrhage and resuscitation. A sham group underwent the vascular cannulation without hemorrhage and resuscitation, and controls had no surgical manipulation. After 24 and 72 hours, the small intestine microcirculation was visualized by in vivo videomicroscopy. Mean arterial pressure, heart rate, arteriolar diameters, and A1 flow by Doppler velocimetry were measured. Endothelial-dependent dilator function was determined by the topical application of acetylcholine (ACh). After 1 hour of Escherichia coil bacteremia, ACh dose responses were again measured. Topical nitroprusside was then applied to assess direct smooth muscle dilation (endothelial-independent dilator function) in all groups. Vascular reactivity to ACh was compared among the groups.

RESULTS: Acute bacteremia, with or without prior hemorrhage, caused significant large-caliber A1 arteriolar constriction with a concomitant decrease in blood flow. This constriction was blunted at 24 hours after hemorrhage but was restored to control values by 72 hours. There was a reversal of the response to bacteremia in the premucosal A3 vessels, with a marked dilation both at 24 and 72 hours. The sequence of hemorrhage and E. coli resulted in a progressive enhanced reactivity to the endothelial-dependent stimulus of ACh in the A3 vessels at 24 and 72 hours. Reactivity to endothelial-independent smooth muscle relaxation and subsequent vessel dilation was similar for all groups.

CONCLUSIONS: These data indicate that there is altered endothelial control of the intestinal microvasculature after hemorrhage in favor of enhanced dilator mechanisms in premucosal vessels with enhanced constrictor forces in inflow vessels. This enhanced dilator sensitivity is most evident in small premucosal vessels. This experimental finding supports the premise that an initial pathophysiologic stress alters the subsequent microvascular blood flow responses to systemic inflammation. These changes in the intestinal microcirculation are in concert with the "two-hit" theory for MSOF.

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