Background: Severe traumatic injury can lead to immune dysfunction that renders trauma patients susceptible to nosocomial infections (NI) and prolonged intensive care unit (ICU) stays. We hypothesized that early circulating biomarker patterns following trauma would correlate with sustained immune dysregulation associated with NI and remote organ failure.
Methods: In a cohort of 472 blunt trauma survivors studied over an 8-year period, 127 patients (27%) were diagnosed with NI versus 345 trauma patients without NI. To perform a pairwise, case-control study with 1:1 matching, 44 of the NI patients were compared with 44 no-NI trauma patients selected by matching patient demographics and injury characteristics. Plasma obtained upon admission and over time were assayed for 26 inflammatory mediators and analyzed for the presence of dynamic networks.
Results: Significant differences in ICU length of stay (LOS), hospital LOS, and days on mechanical ventilation were observed in the NI patients versus no-NI patients. Although NI was not detected until day 7, multiple mediators were significantly elevated within the first 24 hours in patients who developed NI. Circulating inflammation biomarkers exhibited 4 distinct dynamic patterns, of which 2 clearly distinguish patients destined to develop NI from those who did not. Mediator network connectivity analysis revealed a higher, coordinated degree of activation of both innate and lymphoid pathways in the NI patients over the initial 24 hours.
Conclusions: These studies implicate unique dynamic immune responses, reflected in circulating biomarkers that differentiate patients prone to persistent critical illness and infections following injury, independent of mechanism of injury, injury severity, age, or sex.