High-mobility group box chromosomal protein 1 (HMGB-1) has recently been shown as an important late mediator of endotoxin shock, intra-abdominal sepsis, and acute lung injury. However, its role in the systemic inflammatory response syndrome after major surgical stress, which may lead to multiple organ dysfunction syndrome, has not been thoroughly investigated. We hypothesized that serum HMGB-1 participates in the thogenesis of postoperative organ system dysfunction after exposure to major surgical stress. A prospective clinical study was performed to consecutive patients (n = 24) with carcinoma of the thoracic esophagus who underwent transthoracic esophagectomy with three field lymph node resection between 1998 and 2003 at Keio University Hospital, Japan. Serum HMGB-1 concentrations were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Preoperative serum HMGB-1 levels correlated with postoperative duration of SIRS, mechanical ventilation, and intensive care unit stay. Three of the 24 patients had serious postoperative complications: Sepsis in two, and acute lung injury in one. Serum HMGB-1 levels in patients without complications increased within the first 24 h postoperatively, remained high during postoperative days 2-3, and then decreased gradually by postoperative day 7. In patients with serious complications, serum HMGB-1 was significantly higher than that found in patients without postoperative complications at every time point except postoperative day 2. Preoperative serum HMGB-1 concentration seems to be an important predictor of the postoperative clinical course. Transthoracic esophagectomy induces an increase in HMGB-1 in serum even in patients without complications. Postoperative serum HMGB-1 concentrations were higher in patients who developed complications, and may be a predictive marker for complications in this setting.
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