Older Patients Are Immunocompromised by Cytokine Depletion and Loss of Innate Immune Function After HIP Fracture Surgery

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We have examined the immune status of elderly patients who underwent surgery for a hip fracture, an injury associated with poor postoperative outcomes, to identify specific immune defects.


In a cohort observational study, 16 patients undergoing surgery for hip fractures had immune function evaluation prior to surgery, and then at 3 and 7 days postoperatively, using flow cytometry for phenotype and for monocyte and granulocyte phagocytic function and respiratory burst. Serum samples were stored and batch analyzed using a human cytokine 25-plex panel.


We report significant loss of innate immune function, related specifically to reduced granulocyte numbers by day 7 (P < .0001, flow cytometry; P < .05 white blood cells), and although granulocyte ability to take up opsonized Escherichia coli was increased (P < .05), the ability of those cells to generate a respiratory burst was reduced at days 3 and 7 (P < .05). Monocyte respiratory burst was also significantly reduced (P < .05). Serum cytokine levels indicated very poor T-cell function.


We have demonstrated that the antimicrobial immune response is profoundly reduced after surgery in elderly patients with hip fractures. The effect was sustained up to 7 days postoperatively, identifying these patients as particularly vulnerable to bacterial infections.

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