Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

ObjectiveTo describe immune-pathways and gene-networks altered following major-abdominal surgery and identify transcriptomic patterns associated with postoperative pneumonia.Summary background dataNosocomial infections are a major healthcare challenge, developing in over 20% of patients aged 45 or over undergoing major-abdominal surgery, with postoperative pneumonia associated with an almost five-fold increase in 30-day mortality.MethodsFrom a prospective consecutive cohort (n=150) undergoing major-abdominal surgery whole-blood RNA was collected preoperatively and at three time-points postoperatively (2-6, 24 and 48hrs). Twelve patients diagnosed with postoperative pneumonia and 27 matched patients remaining infection-free were identified for analysis with RNA-sequencing.ResultsCompared to preoperative sampling, 3,639 genes were upregulated and 5,043 downregulated at 2-6hrs. Pathway-analysis demonstrated innate-immune activation with neutrophil-degranulation and Toll-like-receptor signalling upregulation alongside adaptive-immune suppression. Cell-type deconvolution of preoperative RNA-sequencing revealed elevated S100A8/9-high neutrophils alongside reduced naïve CD4 T-cells in those later developing pneumonia. Preoperatively, a gene-signature characteristic of neutrophil-degranulation was associated with postoperative pneumonia acquisition (P=0.00092). A previously reported Sepsis Response Signature (SRSq) score, reflecting neutrophil-dysfunction and a more dysregulated host response, at 48hrs postoperatively, differed between patients subsequently developing pneumonia and those remaining infection-free (P=0.045). Analysis of the novel neutrophil gene-signature and SRSq scores in independent major-abdominal surgery and polytrauma cohorts indicated good predictive performance in identifying patients suffering later infection.ConclusionsMajor-abdominal surgery acutely upregulates innate-immune pathways while simultaneously suppressing adaptive-immune pathways. This is more prominent in patients developing postoperative pneumonia. Preoperative transcriptomic signatures characteristic of neutrophil-degranulation and postoperative SRSq scores may be useful predictors of subsequent pneumonia risk.

Original publication




Journal article


Annals of surgery

Publication Date



Division of Anaesthetics, Pain Medicine & Intensive Care Department of Surgery & Cancer, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, London. UK.