BACKGROUND: Neutrophil-derived lipocalin-2 exerts bacteriostatic effects through retardation of iron uptake by the Gram-negative organisms like Escherichia coli. We tested the hypothesis that the expression of lipocalin-2, a bacteriostatic protein, was upregulated by induction of surgical site infection (SSI) with E coli in healthy and diseased rats and that epidural anesthesia modulated its expression. METHODS: Male Wistar rats were randomized into a healthy or disease group, the latter of which was administered lipopolysaccharide. Both groups were further divided into 3 subgroups, the control, saline, and lidocaine groups: group healthy control (n = 10), healthy saline (n = 10), and healthy lidocaine (n = 10) versus group disease control (n = 15), disease saline (n = 18), and disease lidocaine (n = 19), respectively. While saline was epidurally administered to the control and saline groups, lidocaine was administered to the lidocaine groups. Except for the control groups, E coli was injected to the pseudosurgical site to mimic SSI after abdominal surgery. Plasma concentrations of inflammatory cytokine and lipocalin-2 were measured. At 72 hours, the surgical site tissues were obtained to evaluate mRNA expression of lipocalin-2 and E coli DNA expression. RESULTS: All disease subgroups showed markedly increased plasma inflammatory cytokines versus the healthy subgroups. Among the disease subgroups, plasma concentrations of lipocalin-2 and tissue mRNA expression of lipocalin-2 were significantly increased in group disease lidocaine versus the others. Concurrently, E coli DNA expression in the tissue specimens was also significantly lower in group disease lidocaine as compared with group disease saline. CONCLUSIONS: Epidural anesthesia was associated with an increase in the expression lipocalin-2 and a decrease in the expression of E coli DNA at pseudosurgical sites in sick but not healthy rats. These observations suggest a potential mechanism by which epidural anesthesia could reduce the risk of SSI.
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