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