BACKGROUND: Shed mediastinal blood is known to be a source of microemboli in cardiac surgery. The aim of this study was to characterize in detail the lipid particles found in this blood. METHODS: Blood samples were collected from 24 patients undergoing routine cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass. Arterial and shed blood was analyzed using the Coulter counter technique to establish the number and size of particles. The composition of these lipid particles was compared with that of adipose tissue from the mediastinum using gas chromatography. Scanning electron microscopy was used to visualize the lipid particles in samples of shed blood. RESULTS: Lipid particles in the size range of 10 to 60 microm were characterized in shed mediastinal blood, and more than 300,000 particles per milliliter of blood were found. Triglyceride profiles in these lipid particles and in adipose tissue were similar, suggesting that their origin is the mediastinum. Scanning electron microscopy showed spherical formations corresponding in size to the particles counted using the Coulter counter. CONCLUSIONS: During the past decade attention has focused on microembolism in cardiac surgery, and this study has helped define the problem. Different strategies, such as eliminating the use of shed mediastinal blood or purifying the blood by different techniques, may improve the results of cardiac surgery in the future.
- Cardiac and Cardiovascular Systems