Analysis of the Plasma Metabolome after Trauma, Novel Circulating Sphingolipid Signatures, and In-Hospital Outcomes

Anthony Cyr, Yanjun Zhong, Steven E. Reis, Rami A. Namas, Andrew Amoscato, Brian Zuckerbraun, Jason Sperry, Ruben Zamora, Yoram Vodovotz, Timothy R. Billiar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Trauma is the leading cause of death and disability for individuals under age 55. Many severely injured trauma patients experience complicated clinical courses despite appropriate initial therapy. We sought to identify novel circulating metabolomic signatures associated with clinical outcomes following trauma. Study design: Untargeted metabolomics and circulating plasma immune mediator analysis was performed on plasma collected during 3 post-injury time periods (<6 hours [h], 6 h–24h, day 2–day 5) in critically ill trauma patients enrolled between April 2004 and May 2013 at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. Inclusion criteria were age ≥ 18 years, blunt mechanism, ICU admission, and expected survival ≥ 24 h. Exclusion criteria were isolated head injury, spinal cord injury, and pregnancy. Exploratory endpoints included length of stay (overall and ICU), ventilator requirements, nosocomial infection, and Marshall organ dysfunction (MOD) score. The top 50 metabolites were isolated using repeated measures ANOVA and multivariate empirical Bayesian analysis for further study. Results: Eighty-six patients were included for analysis. Sphingolipids were enriched significantly (chi-square, p < 10-6) among the top 50 metabolites. Clustering of sphingolipid patterns identified 3 patient subclasses: nonresponders (no time-dependent change in sphingolipids, n = 41), sphingosine/sphinganine-enhanced (n = 24), and glycosphingolipid-enhanced (n = 21). Compared with the sphingolipid-enhanced subclasses, nonresponders had longer mean length of stay, more ventilator days, higher MOD scores, and higher circulating levels of proinflammatory immune mediators IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, MCP1/CCL2, IP10/CXCL10, and MIG/CXCL9 (all p < 0.05), despite similar Injury Severity Scores (p = 0.12). Conclusions: Metabolomic analysis identified broad alterations in circulating plasma sphingolipids after blunt trauma. Circulating sphingolipid signatures and their association with both clinical outcomes and circulating inflammatory mediators suggest a possible link between sphingolipid metabolism and the immune response to trauma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-287.e1
JournalJournal of the American College of Surgeons
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


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