Purpose: We evaluated the relations among the arterial carbon monoxide (CO) concentration, heme oxygenase (HO)-1 expression by monocytes, oxidative stress, plasma levels of cytokines and bilirubin, and the outcome of patients with severe sepsis or septic shock.
Methods: Thirty-six patients who fulfilled the criteria for severe sepsis or septic shock and 21 other patients without sepsis during their stay in the intensive care unit were studied. HO-1 protein expression by monocytes, arterial CO, oxidative stress, bilirubin, and cytokines were measured.
Results: Arterial blood CO, cytokine, and bilirubin levels, and monocyte HO-1 protein expression were higher in patients with severe sepsis/septic shock than in non-septic patients. Increased HO-1 expression was related to the arterial CO concentration and oxidative stress. There was a positive correlation between survival and increased HO-1 protein expression or a higher CO level.
Conclusions: Arterial CO and monocyte HO-1 protein expression were increased in critically ill patients, particularly those with severe sepsis or septic shock, suggesting that oxidative stress is closely related to HO-1 expression. The HO-1/CO system may play an important role in sepsis.