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This article is part of the supplement: 33rd International Symposium on Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine

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Do changes in red blood cell deformability in patients with septic shock correlate with changes in SOFA scores?

T Clark1*, S Jewell2, M Sair1, P Petrov2 and P Winlove2

  • * Corresponding author: T Clark

Author Affiliations

1 Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, UK

2 University of Exeter, UK

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Critical Care 2013, 17(Suppl 2):P11  doi:10.1186/cc11949

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published:19 March 2013

© 2013 Clark et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Traditional whole blood experiments suggest that sepsis causes abnormal red blood cell (RBC) deformability. To investigate this at the cellular level, we employed a novel biophysical method to observe individual RBC membrane mechanics in patients with septic shock.


We collected blood samples from patients with septic shock until either death or day 5 of admission. Thermal influctuations of individual RBCs were recorded allowing a complete analysis of RBC shape variation over time. Mean elasticity of the cell membrane was then quantified for each sample collected.


We recruited nine patients with septic shock. Table 1 shows mean RBC thermal fluctuation and SOFA scores.

Table 1. Mean RBC fluctuation (daily SOFA score)


RBC thermal fluctuation analysis allows variations in RBC elasticity during sepsis to be quantified at a cellular level. We could not identify any specific trend between sepsis severity and erythrocyte elasticity. Cells demonstrated both increases and decreases in fluctuation independent of SOFA score. This is contrary to current evidence that suggests RBC deformability is reduced during sepsis.


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    Intensive Care Med. 2003, 29:1052-1061. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL