Surgery is accompanied by a systemic inflammatory response that may presage delirium in susceptible individuals. Little is known about the trajectory of plasma proinflammatory cytokines and their potential associations with postoperative delirium (POD). The current study longitudinally assessed both pro and anti-inflammatory plasma cytokine response and development of POD in older surgical patients to investigate associations with individual and/or clusters of cytokines that may indicate pathogenic mechanisms.
A prospective longitudinal study sought to enroll patients >60 years old who were scheduled for major lower limb surgery under general anesthesia. Blood was obtained preoperatively and postoperatively from day 1 through postoperative day 4 for measurement of plasma interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, soluble IL-6 receptor (sIL-6R), IL-10, and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). Participants were assessed for POD twice daily for 4 days using the confusion assessment method. Trajectory of postoperative changes in plasma cytokines was determined by a group-based trajectory modeling analysis that was informed by distinct cytokines identified by time-dependent Cox regression model.
One hundred eighty-eight patients were assessed for eligibility of whom 129 underwent major surgery and 126 had complete datasets for final analysis. POD was diagnosed in 31 of 126 patients (24.6%). Time-dependent Cox regression model identified that higher IL-6 and sIL-6R levels were associated with higher risk of developing POD. A two-cluster model (stable lower and fluctuating higher levels) was considered to be the most statistically appropriate model for IL-6 and sIL-6R trajectory. More participants with fluctuating higher IL-6 were delirious (73.3% vs 18.0%, P = .001) as were those with fluctuating higher sIL-6R (81.3% vs 16.4%, P = .001).
As higher IL-6 and sIL-6R levels were significantly associated with higher risk of POD and the combination is required for IL-6 trans-signaling, it is possible that activation of this pathway may be associated with POD. Furthermore, it will be important to determine whether high levels of the combination of IL-6 and sIL-6R can be an early biomarker for the subsequent development of POD.
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