Delayed recovery from surgery causes personal suffering and substantial societal and economic costs. Whether immune mechanisms determine recovery after surgical trauma remains ill-defined. Single-cell mass cytometry was applied to serial whole-blood samples from 32 patients undergoing hip replacement to comprehensively characterize the phenotypic and functional immune response to surgical trauma. The simultaneous analysis of 14,000 phosphorylation events in precisely phenotyped immune cell subsets revealed uniform signaling responses among patients, demarcating a surgical immune signature. When regressed against clinical parameters of surgical recovery, including functional impairment and pain, strong correlations were found with STAT3 (signal transducer and activator of transcription), CREB (adenosine 3',5'-monophosphate response element-binding protein), and NF-κB (nuclear factor κB) signaling responses in subsets of CD14(+) monocytes (R = 0.7 to 0.8, false discovery rate <0.01). These sentinel results demonstrate the capacity of mass cytometry to survey the human immune system in a relevant clinical context. The mechanistically derived immune correlates point to diagnostic signatures, and potential therapeutic targets, that could postoperatively improve patient recovery.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01578798.
Copyright © 2014, American Association for the Advancement of Science.