Blood samples taken from patients after surgery might reveal who is destined for a quick rebound, Stanford University researchers report in the Sept. 24 Science Translational Medicine. A comparison of 32 people, with an average age of 60, recovering from a hip replacement found that an immune-cell “signature” might predict a patient’s recovery course.
The immune system responds to surgery as it would to any trauma. First-responder cells called monocytes rush to the scene, triggering inflammation. But too much inflammation slows recovery. While combing through blood samples taken after surgery, the researchers noticed that certain versions of cells called CD14+ monocytes seemed to contribute to a better recovery. In patients who ended up recovering quickly, these cells limited the activity of three molecules broadly associated with inflammation within the first 24 hours after surgery.
Many factors probably underlie the variability in recovery time among surgery patients, and coauthor Martin Angst, an anesthesiologist, says the cell signature analysis can explain about half of the puzzle. It was able to predict which patients were bound for good recoveries — with less fatigue, pain or functional impairment — only 40 to 60 percent of the time.