Surgery alters the body's homeostatic balance and defense mechanisms. In adults transient postoperative cellular and humoral immunosuppression after different degrees of operative stress has been reported. In children the immunologic consequences of operations are not elaborated. This study investigates the effect of minor and major surgery on early nonspecific immune response in terms of neutrophil counts and function. Forty-three children undergoing minor and major elective procedures were studied. Blood samples were collected before, immediately after, and 72 h after surgery. Total white cell count, differential neutrophil count, and neutrophil phagocytic function were studied using nitroblue tetrazolium test. Children were divided into two groups-group 1 underwent minor surgery and group 2 major surgery. In group 1 there was a significant drop in total counts after surgery, but in group 2 total counts were not affected. In both groups, the percentage of neutrophils increased immediately after surgery but fell to near or less than preoperative levels 72 h after surgery. However, the assessment of neutrophil functions by nitroblue tetrazolium test in both unstimulated and stimulated forms revealed it to be unchanged in group 1. In group 2 the unstimulated neutrophil function was elevated 72 h after surgery, whereas stimulated function was elevated immediately after surgery. Minor surgery does not alter the early nonspecific immune response. However, major surgery seems to induce a transient increase in neutrophil phagocytic activity.
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