Introduction: Despite recent advances in the management of septic shock, mortality rates are still unacceptably high. Early identification of the high-mortality risk group for early intervention remains an issue under exploration. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), soluble vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 (sVEGFR1) and urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) have diverse effects in the pathogenesis of sepsis, which involve pro-inflammation, anti-inflammation, endothelial cell repair, and vascular permeability change. Their roles in predicting mortality and organ dysfunction remain to be clarified.
Methods: Pneumonia-related septic shock patients from medical intensive care units were enrolled for this prospective observational study. We also included 20 patients with pneumonia without organ dysfunction for comparison. Plasma levels of VEGF and sVEGFR1 and uPA activity within 24 hours of shock onset were measured. We compared plasma levels of these biomarkers with APACHE II scores between subgroups of patients, and evaluated their predictive value for 28-day mortality and organ dysfunction.
Results: A total of 101 patients, including 81 with pneumonia-related septic shock and 20 with pneumonia without organ dysfunction, were enrolled. Non-survivors of septic shock had significantly higher plasma sVEGFR1 levels (659.3 ± 1022.8 vs. 221.1 ± 268.9 pg/mL, respectively, P < 0.001) and uPA activity (47.2 ± 40.6 vs. 27.6 ± 17.2 units, respectively, P = 0.001) when compared with those of the survivors. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis demonstrated significantly higher mortality in patients with higher levels of sVEGFR1 (P < 0.001) and uPA activity (P = 0.031). In Cox regression analysis, plasma sVEGFR1 level was independently associated with, and best predicted, the 28-day mortality of septic shock (HR: 1.55, 95% CI: 1.05-2.30). Plasma sVEGFR1 level and uPA activity had good correlation with renal dysfunction, metabolic acidosis, and hematologic dysfunction; their levels significantly increased when the number of organ dysfunctions increased. In multivariate analysis, plasma sVEGFR1 level (HR: 2.82, 95% CI: 1.17-6.81) and uPA activity (HR: 2.75, 95% CI: 1.06-7.13) were independent predictors of the presence of concomitant multi-organ dysfunction. The predictive value of VEGF for mortality and organ dysfunction was limited in pneumonia-related septic shock patients.
Conclusions: High plasma sVEGFR1 level in the early stage of pneumonia-related septic shock independently predicted 28-day mortality and multi-organ dysfunction.