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Critical Care Research and Practice
Volume 2012, Article ID 702956, 7 pages
Review Article

Alterations of the Erythrocyte Membrane during Sepsis

1Department of Intensive Care, CHU-Charleroi, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 92, Boulevard Janson, 6000 Charleroi, Belgium
2Experimental Medicine Laboratory, CHU-Charleroi, ULB 222 Unit, 6110 Montigny-le-Tilleul, Belgium

Received 9 January 2012; Revised 27 February 2012; Accepted 18 March 2012

Academic Editor: Arnaldo Dubin

Copyright © 2012 Yasmina Serroukh et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Erythrocytes have been long considered as “dead” cells with transport of oxygen (O2) as their only function. However, the ability of red blood cells (RBCs) to modulate the microcirculation is now recognized as an important additional function. This capacity is regulated by a key element in the rheologic process: the RBC membrane. This membrane is a complex unit with multiple interactions between the extracellular and intracellular compartments: blood stream, endothelium, and other blood cells on the one hand, and the intracytoplasmic compartment with possible rapid adaptation of erythrocyte metabolism on the other. In this paper, we review the alterations in the erythrocyte membrane observed in critically ill patients and the influence of these alterations on the microcirculatory abnormalities observed in such patients. An understanding of the mechanisms of RBC rheologic alterations in sepsis and their effects on blood flow and on oxygen transport may be important to help reduce morbidity and mortality from severe sepsis.