Increased neutrophil mobilization and decreased chemotaxis during cortisol and epinephrine infusions

J Trauma. 1991 Jun;31(6):725-31; discussion 731-2.


Although hormones are putative mediators of neutrophil changes after injury, the effects of trauma-induced levels of plasma cortisol and epinephrine on circulating neutrophils have not been reported in humans. The dynamics of PMN mobilization and chemotaxis were evaluated during 19 infusions of epinephrine or cortisol or a combined infusion of both hormones in ten normal volunteers. Basal levels of epinephrine and cortisol increased during infusions to levels consistent with those reported following severe injury. Circulating neutrophil counts increased in parallel with plasma cortisol levels. Epinephrine mobilized the entire marginated pool of neutrophils, and the neutrophil half-life was extended from a normal of 6.6 hours to 10.4 hours by cortisol. Chemotaxis after six hours of epinephrine infusion was reduced compared with baseline chemotaxis. In four volunteers who had a second infusion of cortisol, chemotaxis was significantly depressed ten days after the infusion compared with baseline. From these data we conclude that stress levels of epinephrine mobilize the marginated pool of granulocytes into the circulating pool in a linear fashion, and cortisol raises the half-life of circulating neutrophils. Reduced neutrophil chemotaxis seen as a consequence of these infusions could account for some of the increased susceptibility to infection that occurs after major trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Chemotaxis, Leukocyte / drug effects*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Epinephrine / administration & dosage*
  • Epinephrine / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / administration & dosage*
  • Hydrocortisone / pharmacology
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Leukocyte Count / drug effects
  • Male
  • Neutrophils / drug effects*
  • Neutrophils / physiology


  • Hydrocortisone
  • Epinephrine