Immunomodulation in transfused trauma patients

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Purpose of review

Traumatic injury is a major human health problem, with many injured people supported by transfusion of allogeneic blood. Although trauma and transfusion have both been known to have immunomodulatory effects for some time, little is known about their combined effects or the scope and kinetics of such responses.

Recent findings

Traumatic injury has a profound immunomodulatory effect on the patient, affecting a broad array of immunological components. This can be further complicated by transfusion, though the contribution of transfusion relative to the massive response triggered by trauma is small. The response to trauma involves a strong immunosuppressive component, which, contrary to the systemic inflammatory response syndrome/compensatory anti-inflammatory response syndrome model, occurs at the earliest time points examined and overlaps with proinflammatory and antimicrobial elements. This response is remarkably similar in a wide range of patients with different types and severities of injury.


The response to trauma and transfusion involves a massive and rapid reorganization of the immune system that can put the patient at increased risk of infection, tissue damage, and organ failure. The scope of the response presents challenges to the development of treatments to control this dysregulation.

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