Derangement of Arginine and Related Amino Acids in Children Undergoing Surgery for Congenital Heart Disease With Cardiopulmonary Bypass

Crit Care Explor. 2020 Jul 16;2(7):e0150. doi: 10.1097/CCE.0000000000000150. eCollection 2020 Jul.


Arginine is a conditionally essential amino acid, the precursor for nitric oxide and a key factor in cell proliferation, protein synthesis, and energy metabolism. When there is increased demand in the setting of inflammation, ischemia-reperfusion injury, and organ dysfunction, endogenous arginine production falls short, and external supplementation may be necessary. The goal of this study was to assess changes in concentrations of plasma arginine, citrulline, ornithine, glutamine, and plasma arginase in infants and children undergoing surgery for congenital heart disease with cardiopulmonary bypass.

Design: Prospective observational study.

Setting: The study was conducted in the Heart Center at Texas Children's Hospital.

Subjects: Children undergoing surgery for congenital heart disease with cardiopulmonary bypass.

Interventions: None.

Measurements and main results: Serial perioperative blood samples were collected for quantification of amino acids, arginase, nitric oxide metabolites, and markers of organ function (lactate, Pao2/Fio2 ratio, and creatinine clearance). Thirty children (18 males) were included in the study; median (interquartile range) age 0.5 years (0.3-0.9 yr). The mean ± sd for plasma amino acid concentrations before cardiopulmonary bypass: arginine 62 ± 20 µmol/L, citrulline 24 ± 6 µmol/L, ornithine 53 ± 32 µmol/L, and glutamine 591 ± 126 µmol/L. Arginine concentration was decreased within the first 24 hours (43 ± 15 µmol/L; p = 0.004), citrulline and glutamine concentrations decreased over the first 48 hours (11 ± 4 µmol/L; p < 0.001 and 493 ± 131 µmol/L; p = 0.019, respectively) and were associated with an increase in arginase (3.8 ± 3 µg/mL; p < 0.05). There was an increase in Vasoactive-Inotropic Score (5.9 ± 19 vs 0.5 ± 2; p < 0.001), decrease in creatinine clearance (76 ± 24 vs 93 ± 31; p = 0.002), and Pao2/Fio2 ratio (243 ± 138 vs 374 ± 200; p = 0.007) comparing to baseline.

Conclusions: A widely variable degree of arginine, citrulline, and glutamine depletion occurs in children after surgery for congenital heart disease. These findings were associated with increased arginase and coincide with some of the markers of organ perfusion.

Keywords: arginase; arginine; cardiopulmonary bypass; citrulline; congenital heart disease.