Although adrenal insufficiency may not occur with moderate hypotension, it does occur with severe hemorrhage. Since hepatocellular function is depressed following severe hemorrhage, it remains unknown whether the liver plays any role in regulating adrenal function after trauma and hemorrhagic shock.
Hepatic 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11β-HSD), a microsomal enzyme responsible for the degradation of bioactive corticosterone, plays a major role in the development of adrenal insufficiency following trauma and severe hemorrhage.
Design, Interventions, and Main Outcome Measures
Male rats underwent laparotomy to induce trauma before hemorrhage. They were then bled to and maintained at a blood pressure of 40 mm Hg until 40% of the maximal bleed-out volume was returned in the form of Ringer lactate. The rats were then resuscitated with 4 times the volume of maximal bleed-out with Ringer lactate during a 60-minute period. Plasma levels of corticosterone and corticotropin were measured at various intervals. In additional groups, corticotropin-induced corticosterone release, adrenal contents of corticosterone and cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), hepatic 11β-HSD activity, and plasma levels of corticosterone-binding globulin were determined at 1.5 hours after resuscitation. Moreover, a model of moderate hypotension (blood pressure, 80 mm Hg) was used to determine whether adrenal function is depressed under such conditions.
At the time of maximal bleed-out, plasma corticosterone and corticotropin levels increased by 245% (P<.001) and 293% (P<.001), respectively. Despite corticotropin levels being similar to those of the animals undergoing sham operation after resuscitation, corticosterone levels in hemorrhaged animals remained elevated up to 4 hours after resuscitation (by 158%-207%; P<.001). In addition, corticotropin-induced corticosterone release decreased by 78% at 1.5 hours after resuscitation (P=.009). In contrast, moderate hypotension did not reduce corticotropin-induced corticosterone release. Adrenal corticosterone content and cAMP levels (ie, the second messenger of corticotropin action) decreased by 55% (P<.001) and 25% (P=.03), respectively. Hepatic 11β-HSD activity decreased significantly at 1.5 hours after resuscitation (P<.001).
Sustained increase in plasma corticosterone levels following hemorrhage and resuscitation may be, in part, due to the decreased hepatic 11β-HSD activity. The high level of corticosterone negatively regulates corticotropin release, further reducing adrenal responsiveness to corticotropin stimulation. Thus, the liver appears to play an important role in regulating adrenal function following trauma and severe hemorrhage.