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Elevated serum bleomycin-detectable iron concentrations in patients with sepsis syndrome

H. F. Galley| N. R. Webster
Volume 22, Issue 3 / March , 1996

Pages 226 - 229



To determine serum bleomycin-detectable ‘free’ iron in patients with septic shock and to relate these findings to both outcome and a marker of free radical damage.


A prospective observational study.


A nine-bed intensive care unit in a university teaching hospital.


Sixteen consecutive patients with septic shock, defined as: (1) Clinical evidence of acute infection; (2) hypo- or hyperthermia (<35.6° or >38.3°C); (3) tachypnoea (>20 breaths/min or ventilated); (4) tachycardia (>90 beats min); (5) shock (systolic pressure <90 mmHg) or on inotropes. Fourteen patients also had secondary organ dysfunction.

Measurements and results

Bleomycin-detectable iron concentrations were elevated in all patients (37.2±11.0 μmol/l vs 5.1±3.3 μmol/l in healthy subjects,P<0.0001), but there was no difference between patients who died and those who survived (39.2±9.3 and 36.2±12.3 μmol/l, respectively). Thiobarbituric acid reactive substances 9an index of lipid peroxidation) were higher in those who died (3.33±2.29 μmol/l) than in the surviving patients (0.99±0.14 μmol/l,P<0.01) or healthy subjects (0.92±0.39 μmol/l,P<0.01). Free iron did not correlate with thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances. However, a significant correlation was found between lipid peroxidation and clinical severity (APACHE II) score (r=0.54,P<0.05).


The present study provides evidence of lipid peroxidation in patients who die with septic shock. The data suggest that ironcatalysed hydroxyl radical generation does not form an important contribution to this lipid peroxidation in patients with sepsis.



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