Objective: Severe heatstroke is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality during heat waves. The pathogenesis of tissue injury, organ failure, and death in heatstroke is not well understood.
Methods and result: We investigated the pathways of heatstroke-induced tissue injury and cell death in anesthetized baboons (Papio hamadyras) subjected to environmental heat stress until core temperature attained 42.5 degrees C (moderate heatstroke; n = 3) or onset of severe heatstroke (n = 4) signaled by a fall in systolic blood pressure to < 90 mm Hg and rise in core temperature to 43.1+/-0.1 degrees C. Three sham-heated animals served as controls. Light and electron microscopy revealed widespread hemorrhage and thrombosis, transmural migration of leukocytes, and microvascular endothelium injury in severe heatstroke. Immunohistology and ultrastructural analysis demonstrated increased staining of endothelial von Willebrand factor (vWF), tissue factor (TF), and endothelial leukocyte-platelet interaction. Extensive apoptosis was noted in spleen, gut, and lung, and in hematopoeitic cells populating these organs. Double-labeling studies colocalized active caspase-3 and TF with apoptotic cells. Findings in sham-heated animals were unremarkable.
Conclusions: These data suggested that microvascular injury, thrombosis, inflammation, and apoptosis may play an important role in the pathogenesis of heatstroke injury.