Endotoxemia Results in Trapping of Transfused Red Blood Cells in Lungs with Associated Lung Injury

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Red blood cell (RBC) transfusion is associated with organ failure, in particular in the critically ill. We hypothesized that endotoxemia contributes to increased trapping of RBCs in organs. Furthermore, we hypothesized that this effect is more pronounced following transfusion of stored RBCs compared with fresh RBCs.


Adult male Sprague–Dawley rats were randomized to receive injection with lipopolysaccharide from E coli or vehicle and transfusion with fresh or stored biotinylated RBCs. After 24 h, the amount of biotinylated RBCs in organs was measured by flow cytometry, as well as the 24-h post-transfusion recovery. Markers of organ injury and histopathology of organs were assessed.


Endotoxemia resulted in systemic inflammation and organ injury. Following RBC transfusion, donor RBCs were recovered from the lung and kidney of endotoxemic recipients (1.2 [0.8–1.6]% and 2.2 [0.4–4.4]% of donor RBCs respectively), but not from organs of healthy recipients. Trapping of donor RBCs in the lung was associated with increased lung injury, but not with kidney injury. Stored RBCs induced organ injury in the spleen and yielded a lower 24-h post-transfusion recovery, but other effects of storage time were limited.


Endotoxemia results in an increased percentage of donor RBCs recovered from the lung and kidney, which is associated with lung injury following transfusion.

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