Human glycocalyx shedding: Systematic review and critical appraisal

Robert G. Hahn, Vasu Patel, Randal O. Dull

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Background: The number of studies measuring breakdown products of the glycocalyx in plasma has increased rapidly during the past decade. The purpose of the present systematic review was to assess the current knowledge concerning the association between plasma concentrations of glycocalyx components and structural assessment of the endothelium. Methods: We performed a literature review of Pubmed to determine which glycocalyx components change in a wide variety of human diseases and conditions. We also searched for evidence of a relationship between plasma concentrations and the thickness of the endothelial glycocalyx layer as obtained by imaging methods. Results: Out of 3,454 publications, we identified 228 that met our inclusion criteria. The vast majority demonstrate an increase in plasma glycocalyx products. Sepsis and trauma are most frequently studied, and comprise approximately 40 publications. They usually report 3-4-foldt increased levels of glycocalyx degradation products, most commonly of syndecan-1. Surgery shows a variable picture. Cardiac surgery and transplantations are most likely to involve elevations of glycocalyx degradation products. Structural assessment using imaging methods show thinning of the endothelial glycocalyx layer in cardiovascular conditions and during major surgery, but thinning does not always correlate with the plasma concentrations of glycocalyx products. The few structural assessments performed do not currently support that capillary permeability is increased when the plasma levels of glycocalyx fragments in plasma are increased. Conclusions: Shedding of glycocalyx components is a ubiquitous process that occurs during both acute and chronic inflammation with no sensitivity or specificity for a specific disease or condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)590-606
Number of pages17
JournalActa Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • bright-field imaging
  • fluid volume kinetics
  • glycocalyx
  • shedding
  • side stream dark field imaging
  • syndecan-1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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