Acute thermal injury (70°C, 30 sec) to rat skin results in progressive consumptive depletion of the complement system. Individual complement components (C3, C4, C6) each show reductions in hemolytic activity. Crossed immunoelectrophoresis analysis of serum from thermally injured rats reveals conversion of C3 compatible with activation of the complement system. During the first hour following thermal injury, C5a-related chemotactic activity appears in the serum and is temporally related to the development of neutropenia. Lung injury, as revealed by increases in lung permeability, develops progressively during a 6-hour period and parallels changes in complement levels. Morphologically, lung changes include leukoaggregates within pulmonary capillaries and the presence of intra-alveolar hemorrhage. Protection from lung injury following remote thermal injury to skin is afforded by depleting animals of complement or neutrophils, or by systemic treatment of animals with a combination of catalase and superoxide dismutase. Antihistamine drugs have no protective effect. These data suggest that acute thermal injury leads to systemic complement activation, neutrophil activation, and acute lung injury that is related to production of toxic oxygen products by activated blood neutrophils.
© Williams & Wilkins 1983. All Rights Reserved.