BACKGROUND - Immunosuppressed states may predispose patients to development of acute brain injury during times of critical illness. Lymphopenia is a non-specific yet commonly used bedside marker of immunosuppressed states.
METHODS - We examined whether lymphopenia would predict development of acute brain dysfunction (delirium and/or coma) in 518 patients enrolled in the Bringing to Light the Risk Factors and Incidence of Neuropsychological Dysfunction in ICU Survivors (BRAIN-ICU) study in medical and surgical ICUs of a tertiary care, university-based medical center. Utilizing proportional odds logistic regression and Cox proportional hazards survival analysis, we assessed the relationship between pre-enrollment lymphocytes and subsequent cognitive outcomes including delirium- and coma-free days (DCFDs) and 30-day mortality.
RESULTS - There were no statistically significant associations between lymphocytes and DCFDs (p = 0.17); additionally, the relationship between lymphocytes and mortality was not statistically significant (p = 0.71). Among 259 patients without history of cancer or diabetes, there was no statistically significant association between lymphocytes and DCFDs (p = 0.07).
CONCLUSION - lymphopenia, a commonly used bedside marker of immunosuppression, does not appear to be a marker of risk for acute brain injury (delirium/coma) or 30-day mortality in general medical/surgical ICU patients.