(HealthDay News) — Measuring the activity of a subset of white blood cells immediately after surgery might reveal which patients are likely to recover quickly and those who won’t, a preliminary study suggests. The report was published in the September 24 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

For the study, Brice Gaudillière, MD, PhD, a clinical instructor at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, and colleagues analyzed the recovery of 32 patients who had hip replacement surgery. To see if they could predict patients’ recovery, the researchers measured the activity of HLADRlow CD14+ monocytes. Recovery was measured by how quickly fatigue and pain decreased and hip function improved.

The investigators found that when these cells were highly active during the day after surgery, patients took longer to recover than if the activity was low or decreased. “Their activity level correlated very strongly with how patients recover from surgery. The more active these cells are, the worse the recovery,” Gaudillière told HealthDay.

The researchers plan to test these findings in other operations to see if they can be duplicated. If so, they hope to develop a simple, inexpensive blood test that could guide patients and doctors in predicting recovery and planning medical care after an operation. “Surprisingly, there is no way we can tell a patient how long it will take to recover,” Gaudillière said.

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