Background: Injury activates a cascade of local and systemic immune responses.
Methods: A literature review was undertaken of lymphocyte function in wound healing and following injury.
Results: Lymphocytes are not required for the initiation of wound healing, but an intact cellular immune response is essential for a normal outcome of tissue repair. Injury affects lymphocyte immune mechanisms leading to generalized immunosuppression which, in turn, increases host susceptibility to infection and sepsis. Although the exact origin of post-traumatic immunosuppression remains unknown, stress hormones and immunosuppressive factors, such as inflammatory cytokines, prostaglandin E2 and nitric oxide, affect lymphocyte function adversely. Post-traumatic impairment of T lymphocyte immune function is reflected in decreased lymphocyte numbers, as well as altered T cell phenotype and activity. Antibody-producing B lymphocytes are variably affected by injury, probably secondary to alterations of T lymphocyte function, as a result of their close interaction with helper T cells. Therapeutic modulation of the host immune response may include non-specific and specific interventions to improve overall defence mechanisms.
Conclusion: Early resuscitation to restore lymphocyte function after injury is important for tissue repair and the prevention of immunosuppression.