BACKGROUND: Forty percent of critically ill trauma patients will develop an infectious complication. Pneumonia is the most common cause of death of trauma patients surviving their initial insult. We previously demonstrated that polytrauma (PT), defined as two or more severe injuries in at least two areas of the body, induces emergency hematopoiesis characterized by accelerated myelopoiesis in the bone marrow and increased myeloid cell frequency in the peripheral tissues.We hypothesized that PTalone induces priming of neutrophils, resulting in hyperactivation upon secondary exposure to bacteria and causing acute lung injury and increased susceptibility to secondary exposure to Pseudomonas aeruginosa pneumonia. METHODS: C57BL/6micewere subjected to PT consisting of a lower extremity pseudofracture, liver crush injury, and 15%blood-volume hemorrhage. Pneumoniawas induced by intratracheal injection of 5 × 106 CFU live P. aeruginosa or 1 × 107 of heat-killed P. aeruginosa (HKPA). For reactive oxygen species (ROS), studies polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) were isolated by immunomagnetic bead negative selection and stimulated ex-vivo with HKPA. Reactive oxygen species production was measured by immunofluorescence. For histology, lung sections were stained by hematoxylin-eosin and analyzed by a blinded grader. RESULTS: Polytrauma induced persistent changes in immune function at baseline and to secondary infection. Pneumonia after injury resulted in increased mortality (60% vs. 5%p < 0.01). Blood neutrophils from PT mice had higher resting (unstimulated) ROS production than in naive animals (p < 0.02) demonstrating priming of the neutrophils following PT. After intratracheal HKPA injection, bronchoalveolar lavage PMNs from injured mice had higher ROS production compared with naive mice (p < 0.01), demonstrating an overexuberant immunopathologic response of neutrophils following PT. CONCLUSION: Polytrauma primes neutrophils and causes immunopathologic PMN ROS production, increased lung injury and susceptibility to secondary bacterial pneumonia. These results suggest that trauma-induced immune dysfunction can cause immunopathologic response to secondary infection and suggests neutrophil-mediated pulmonary damage as a therapeutic target for posttrauma pneumonia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)924-934
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2021


  • Dysregulated neutrophil function
  • Pneumonia-induced lung injury
  • Polytrauma


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