1. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the systemic synthesis of cysteinyl leukotrienes in patients with multiple trauma. In order to do this, the urinary excretion of leukotriene E4 was assessed in the first 10 days after trauma.

2. Leukotriene E4 was unequivocally identified by g.c.-m.s. in the urine of healthy subjects and patients with multiple trauma after its conversion to 5-hydroxyeicosanoic acid. Leukotriene E4 was routinely isolated from 24 h urine samples by solid-phase extraction followed by reverse-phase h.p.l.c. and was subsequently quantified by r.i.a.

3. Healthy subjects excreted daily 10 ± 3 nmol of leukotriene E4/mol of creatinine (mean ± sem, n = 16) into urine.

4. Patients with multiple trauma who did not develop adult respiratory distress syndrome (n = 7) excreted 76.8 ± 6.7 nmol of leukotriene E4/mol of creatinine (mean ± sem) daily during the first 10 days after trauma, which was significantly (P < 0.01) more than did healthy subjects.

5. Excretion of leukotriene E4 was even more enhanced in three patients with multiple trauma who developed adult respiratory distress syndrome. Maximal amounts of 593 ± 185 nmol of leukotriene E4/mol of creatinine (mean ± sem) were excreted on day 9 after trauma by these three patients, which corresponds to a 7.7- and a 59-fold increase in excretion of leukotriene E4 compared with patients with multiple trauma who did not develop adult respiratory distress syndrome and healthy subjects, respectively.

6. The present study demonstrates an enhanced synthesis of cysteinyl leukotrienes in patients with multiple trauma, and suggests that cysteinyl leukotrienes are involved in the inflammatory reaction that follows multiple trauma.

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