The objectives of this prospective, observational study were (1) to determine whether a transplanted liver graft releases proinflammatory cytokines into the systemic circulation upon reperfusion and (2) to determine whether they contribute to any subsequent hemodynamic instability observed after graft reperfusion (if this release occurs). Blood samples from 17 consecutive patients undergoing liver transplantation were analyzed for cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α), interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-2, IL-6, and IL-8. Blood samples were obtained from the radial artery, portal vein, and flush blood (a sample taken from a catheter placed above the infrahepatic inferior vena cava clamp). The amount of catecholamines necessary to maintain a mean arterial pressure between 65 and 75 mm Hg during graft reperfusion was compared with the level of cytokines. A statistical analysis was performed with the least squares method, Kendall's tau-b test, and regression analysis. We demonstrated that flush blood from the liver grafts contained a significant amount and variety of cytokines. Most of these were removed by graft irrigation. The concentration of TNF-α in samples obtained from flush blood at the end of liver irrigation was significantly higher than the concentration in samples obtained from the radial artery (P = 0.0067) or portal vein (P = 0.0003) before reperfusion. This correlated directly with the amount of catecholamines used to treat hemodynamic instability. Although there were increased levels of IL-1β, IL-2, and IL-8 in the flush blood, there was no statistically significant correlation between the levels of these cytokines and the amount of catecholamines used.
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