Inflammation and Coagulation during Critical Illness and Long-Term Cognitive Impairment and Disability

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2021 Mar 15;203(6):699-706. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201912-2449OC.


Rationale: The biological mechanisms of long-term cognitive impairment and disability after critical illness are unclear.Objectives: To test the hypothesis that markers of acute inflammation and coagulation are associated with subsequent long-term cognitive impairment and disability.Methods: We obtained plasma samples from adults with respiratory failure or shock on Study Days 1, 3, and 5 and measured concentrations of CRP (C-reactive protein), IFN-γ, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12, MMP-9 (matrix metalloproteinase-9), TNF-α (tumor necrosis factor-α), soluble TNF receptor 1, and protein C. At 3 and 12 months after discharge, we assessed global cognition, executive function, and activities of daily living. We analyzed associations between markers and outcomes using multivariable regression, adjusting for age, sex, education, comorbidities, baseline cognition, doses of sedatives and opioids, stroke risk (in cognitive models), and baseline disability scores (in disability models).Measurements and Main Results: We included 548 participants who were a median (interquartile range) of 62 (53-72) years old, 88% of whom were mechanically ventilated, and who had an enrollment Sequential Organ Failure Assessment score of 9 (7-11). After adjusting for covariates, no markers were associated with long-term cognitive function. Two markers, CRP and MMP-9, were associated with greater disability in basic and instrumental activities of daily living at 3 and 12 months. No other markers were consistently associated with disability outcomes.Conclusions: Markers of systemic inflammation and coagulation measured early during critical illness are not associated with long-term cognitive outcomes and demonstrate inconsistent associations with disability outcomes. Future studies that pair longitudinal measurement of inflammation and related pathways throughout the course of critical illness and during recovery with long-term outcomes are needed.

Keywords: coagulation; critical illness; dementia; disability; inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Blood Coagulation Disorders / blood*
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / blood*
  • Critical Illness
  • Disabled Persons
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood*
  • Interferon Regulatory Factors / blood*
  • Male
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / blood*
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tumor Necrosis Factors / blood*


  • Biomarkers
  • Interferon Regulatory Factors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factors
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases