Background: It is likely that the imbalance between the pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines will determine the outcome in infants with severe respiratory failure receiving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).
Aims: We determined if there was an imbalance between pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in serial bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid obtained from survivors and non-survivors of ECMO.
Methods: We therefore measured the cellular changes and the molar ratios of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines in serial BAL fluid obtained from survivors and non-survivors of ECMO. Fifteen infants surviving ECMO (median age 1 day, range 1-120) and 7 who did not (28 days, range 1-402) were studied.
Results: In the lungs of survivors, the increased proportion of airway neutrophils at presentation decreased with time and was matched by a parallel increase in percent alveolar macrophages as the infants' condition improved. The pro- and anti-inflammatory pulmonary cytokine ratios were static in the survivors. In the non-survivors, the ratio of tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) against soluble TNF-receptor 1 (sTNF-R1) and soluble TNF receptor 2 (sTNF-R2) was increased at days 2-3 when compared to the survivors, but the molar ratio interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta)/soluble IL-1 receptor antagonist (sIL-1RA) was largely undetectable due to undetectable IL-1beta.
Conclusions: These data suggest that the infants who survive ECMO resolve their pulmonary inflammation and that in non-survivors the ratio of TNF-alpha against its receptor antagonists is increased and is associated with a poor outcome. Furthermore, this group of infants were unable to produce significant concentrations of IL-1beta.