Background/aims: Gut translocation of enteric organisms across the intact intestinal mucosa has been postulated as a potential source of sepsis in susceptible patients. However, little is known of its occurrence or significance in humans. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of gut translocation of bacteria in humans and attempt to identify any predisposing factors to its occurrence.
Methods: A consecutive series of 267 general surgical patients were examined for evidence of bacterial translocation by bacterial analysis of intestinal serosa and mesenteric lymph nodes taken at the time of surgery.
Results: Translocation occurred in 10.3% of patients overall. Both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria translocated. Excluding patients with distal intestinal obstruction and those with inflammatory bowel disease in whom translocation was more common, the prevalence was 5%. Neither jaundice, nutritional status, nor total parenteral nutrition predisposed to translocation. Similarly, mucosal atrophy did not predispose to this phenomenon. The development of postoperative septic complications was twice as common in patients with translocation as in those without, but mortality was unaffected.
Conclusions: Translocation occurs as a spontaneous event in humans, but its clinical significance remains to be defined.