, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 471-478
Date: 19 Nov 2009

Histopathology of septic shock induced acute kidney injury: apoptosis and leukocytic infiltration

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Abstract

Purpose

Septic shock is one of the leading causes of acute kidney injury. The mechanisms of this injury remain mostly unknown notably because of the lack of data on renal histological lesions in humans.

Methods

Kidney biopsy was performed immediately post-mortem in consecutive patients who died of septic shock. Comparisons were made with specimens from eight patients who died of trauma on scene and nine ICU patients that died of non-septic causes.

Results

Nineteen septic patients were included, 11 were male, and age was 72 ± 12 years. Anuria occurred in all patients 2.2 ± 1.4 days before death. Seven patients had disseminated intravascular coagulation. In all patients we observed (1) acute tubular lesions whose intensity correlated with blood lactate concentration; (2) intense infiltration by leukocytes, mainly monocytic, in glomeruli and interstitial capillaries as compared to controls; (3) presence of tubular cell apoptosis proved by the presence of apoptotic bodies (2.9% of tubular cells) significantly more frequently than in controls and confirmed by TUNEL and activated caspase-3 staining. Arteriolar/arterial thromboses were observed in only 4 of 19 patients, without any association with presence of disseminated intravascular coagulation.

Conclusions

Kidney lesions in septic shock go beyond those associated with simple acute tubular injury, notably capillary leukocytic infiltration and apoptosis. Vascular thrombosis, however, did not appear to play a major role in the majority of patients. The extent to which these lesions are specific to sepsis or are common to all multi-organ failure independent of its cause is yet to be elucidated.

This article is discussed in the editorial available at: doi:10.1007/s00134-009-1725-8.