Adverse outcomes with extracorporeal adsorbent blood treatments in toxic systemic inflammation: a perspective on possible mechanisms

James Matson*, Paul Lange, Patrick M. Honore, Kevin K. Chung

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Extracorporeal blood purification (EBP) treatments may be used in patients with sepsis and related conditions to mitigate toxic systemic inflammation, prevent or reverse vital organ injury, and improve outcome. These treatments lack demonstrable efficacy, but are generally considered safe. However, since late 2020, four clinical studies of EBP treatment using adsorbent devices in inflammatory disease reported significantly increased patient mortality associated with the adsorbent treatments. Criticisms of study design and execution were published, but revealed no decisive flaws. None of these critiques considered possible toxic effects of the adsorbent treatments per se. Perspective and conclusion: In adsorbent EBP treatment of systemic inflammatory disease the adsorbent media are deployed in patient blood or plasma flow for the purpose of broad spectrum, non-specific adsorptive removal of inflammatory mediators. Adsorption and sequestration of inflammatory mediators by adsorbent media is intended to reduce mediator concentrations in circulating blood and neutralize their activity. However, in the past two decades developments in both biomedical engineering and the science of cytokine molecular dynamics suggest that immobilization of inflammatory proteins on solid scaffolds or molecular carriers may stabilize protein structure and preserve or amplify protein function. It is unknown if these mechanisms are operative in EBP adsorbent treatments. If these mechanisms are operative, then the adsorbent medium could become reactive, promoting inflammatory activity which could result in negative outcomes. Considering the recent reports of harm with adsorbent treatments in diverse inflammatory conditions, caution urges investigation of these potentially harmful mechanisms in these devices. Candidate mechanisms for possible inquiry are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105
JournalAnnals of Intensive Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Adsorbent
  • Bioreactor
  • COVID-19
  • CPFA
  • Coupled plasma filtration and adsorption
  • CytoSorb
  • Extracorporeal blood purification
  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • Protein interface chemistry
  • Sepsis


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