The function of white blood cells in a patient before surgery can indicate their post-surgery recovery time, researchers at Stanford University found in a small study.
Knowing how a patient will do can be helpful to doctors planning post-surgery treatment and to patients who have to make family and work arrangements.
The work is rooted in a 2014 study the researchers conducted showing the same immune activity in blood immediately after surgery could help predict patient recovery.
In that study, with 32 healthy patients who had complication-free hip surgery, those with significantly more active monocytes took weeks longer to regain abilities such as standing or walking.
In the new study, published in the journal Anesthesiology, researchers looked at blood samples taken from the same patients just before their surgeries — and found pre-surgery activity accurately indicated how people would do in recovery.
The new analysis looked at blood samples from 25 of the patients, which had been taken about an hour before surgery. The researchers mixed signaling molecules into the samples to trigger immune responses similar to those that naturally occur before surgery and analyzed the cells. They found predictions based on the samples matched the patients’ recovery speed.
“The first study was exploratory,” said Dr. Martin Angst, a professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine at Stanford University, in a press release. “We are now in the position to ask specific questions and prospectively validate our findings.”
Angst and the researchers are now preparing a larger study with 80 surgical patients to test their theory. If the trial is successful, his team hopes to pinpoint the most critical activated proteins in blood to develop an analysis that can be done with cell analysis machines most hospitals already have.
“Once we know what we’re testing for, we can use simpler methods using machines already in the hospital, and it can be done in a couple of hours,” said Gabriela Fragiadakis, a graduate student in microbiology and immunology at Stanford.[/vc_column][/vc_row]