Sepsis and catecholamine support are the major risk factors for critical illness polyneuropathy after open heart surgery'

Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2000 Jun;48(3):145-50. doi: 10.1055/s-2000-9640.


Background: Critical illness polyneuropathy (CIP) remains a problem after open heart surgery. Recently, we reported about a retrospectively performed study pointing out that sepsis, the application of higher amounts of catecholamines and intervention such as chronic venovenous hemodiafiltration may be involved in the onset of CIP. A prospectively performed study is presented in order to evaluate the significance of risk factors initially after open heart surgery.

Methods: From June 1997 until September 1998, patients undergoing open heart surgery and being ventilated beyond 3 days were prospectively enrolled in the study and underwent a standard protocol of electromyographic investigation in order to determine CIP. Several items were recorded: amount of catecholamines, serum levels of urea, creatinine, albumin, and glucose. The duration of sepsis and chronic venovenous hemodiafiltration were reevaluated. Additionally the age, the left ventricular end-diastolic pressure prior to the operation, the time of ICU stay and the time of ventilatory support were compared.

Results: Within the observation period, 37 adult patients could be enrolled in the study, whereas 12 patients did develop CIP and 7 patients did not. Patients developing CIP required significantly different amounts of epinephrine (0.17 +/- 0.02 vs. 0.09 +/- 0.01 mg/kg/day, p < 0.05, t-test) higher amounts of norepinephrine (0.06 +/- 0.02 vs. 0.02 +/- 0.01 mg/kg/day, p<0.05, t-test), and lesser dosages of dobutamine (2.2 +/- 0.5 vs. 4.9 +/- 0.7, p<0.05, t-test). After cardiac surgery, the plasma levels of urea was initially significantly elevated in patients developing CIP (127.4 +/- 10.5 vs 97.3 +/- 18.5, p<0.05, t-test) Patients suffering from CIP stayed significantly longer in the ICU (40.3 +/- 11.7 vs. 19.6 +/- 11.3 days, p < 0.05 t-test) with an extended time of ventilator support. (769.6 +/- 05.0 vs 295.0 +/- 134.0 hours, p<0.05, t-test). Patients of the CIP group were suffering significant longer from sepsis than patients without CIP.

Conclusions: Sepsis and catecholamine support and an increased level of urea were associated with the development of CIP. The prevention of sepsis and a modulation of the catecholamine support in order to improve microcirculatory flow may reduce the onset of CIP in patients undergoing open heart surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures*
  • Critical Illness
  • Electromyography
  • Epinephrine / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Hemodiafiltration
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microcirculation
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Norepinephrine / therapeutic use*
  • Postoperative Complications*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sepsis / complications*
  • Syndrome


  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine