Rewarming victims of hypothermia such as divers or immersion victims, participants in winter sports and military operations, and surgical patients on cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) may lead to vascular instability, multiorgan failure, shock, and even death. While the causes of these rewarming symptoms are unknown, they may be related to bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) translocated from the intestines into the circulation due to splanchnic ischemia. We have determined LPS during the cooling (to 31.5 degrees-34.0 degrees C) and rewarming phases of hypothermic surgery in 11 patients at the Stanford University Medical Center. During rewarming, there was an LPS spike in 6/11, in one more patient there was an LPS spike during surgery but not during rewarming, and in 4/11 there was no rise in LPS, i.e., a temporary endotoxemia occurred in 7/11 (63.6%) patients, usually at the commencement of rewarming. All four patients with no LPS spike received dexamethasone for at least 7 days before surgery. We propose that hypothermia reduced splanchnic blood flow (BF), causing ischemic damage to the gut wall and translocation of LPS from the gut into the vascular space. Upon rewarming, splanchnic BF is restored, the translocated LPS transits from the splanchnic to the systemic circulations as a bolus, and the gut wall is healed. No sequelae occurred in these patients because of their adequately functioning immune systems. However, had they been immunocompromised, symptoms might have occurred. Rewarming of accident victims probably also incurs a similar risk of endotoxemia, and dexamethasone may have protected the gut wall. Further studies are indicated.
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View details for PubMedID 10813433