Splanchnic ischemia and gut mucosal injury in sepsis and the multiple organ dysfunction syndrome

Am J Gastroenterol. 1996 Sep;91(9):1697-710.


The incidence of multiple organ failure syndrome (MOFS) has increased dramatically in most intensive care units (ICU) in the United States and is now the leading cause of death after sepsis, trauma, and burns (1). Despite advances in resuscitation, availability of potent antibiotics, and modern techniques of organ support (2), the survival of critically ill patients with MOFS has not significantly improved since the syndrome was first described over 2 decades ago (3). In the ICU, the monitoring and management of critically ill patients with MOFS has relied, in large part, on readily available measurements of global hemodynamics and oxygen transport. Given the increased understanding of the special role of splanchnic hypoperfusion in the pathophysiology of sepsis and MOFS (4-5), investigators have focused more recently on regional blood flow and oxygen metabolism in these patients (6). In this article, we first present a clinical overview of sepsis and MOFS. Current concepts of the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of MOFS are discussed, with particular emphasis on the roles of splanchnic ischemia and gut barrier failure in the development of both sepsis and the maintenance of the systemic inflammatory response that leads to MOFS. Alterations in both global and regional oxygen transport in septic shock are described to emphasize the limitations of global monitoring in the assessment of splanchnic tissue oxygenation. The role of gastric tonometry in the monitoring of splanchnic oxygenation and its utility in critically ill patients is then analyzed. In addition, the effects and clinical implications of commonly used vasoactive agents on intestinal oxygenation are discussed. Finally, novel therapeutic strategies based on the "gut-origin hypothesis" of MOFS are reviewed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hemodynamics / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Ischemia / physiopathology*
  • Multiple Organ Failure / etiology
  • Multiple Organ Failure / physiopathology*
  • Multiple Organ Failure / prevention & control
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Splanchnic Circulation / drug effects
  • Splanchnic Circulation / physiology*
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / etiology
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / physiopathology*