Links between Endothelial Glycocalyx Changes and Microcirculatory Parameters in Septic Patients

Egle Belousoviene, Inga Kiudulaite, Vidas Pilvinis and Andrius Pranskunas
MDPI (Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute) 5 August 2021


The glycocalyx is an endothelial surface layer that is essential for maintaining microvascular homeostasis. Impaired integrity of the endothelial glycocalyx may be directly related to the development of microvascular dysfunction. To explore this hypothesis, we conducted a prospective observational study on adult patients diagnosed with sepsis. The study aimed to evaluate the degree of damage to the glycocalyx and to identify correlations between microcirculatory parameters and glycocalyx thickness based on capillary diameter. Sublingual microcirculation was examined using a handheld Cytocam-incident dark field video microscope. A sidestream dark field video microscope attached to a GlycoCheck monitor was used to determine the perfused boundary regions (PBRs) of sublingual blood vessels grouped by diameter (5–9 μm, 10–19 μm, and 20–25 μm). We identified significant damage to the glycocalyx in sublingual blood vessels of all the aforementioned diameters in septic patients compared to healthy age-matched controls. Furthermore, we found that the PBRs of the smallest capillaries (diameter class 5–9µm) correlated moderately and inversely with both total and perfused blood vessel densities. Collectively, our data suggest that there may be a functional relationship between damage to the endothelial glycocalyx of the smallest capillaries and alterations in the microcirculation observed in response to sepsis.