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Scientific Reports





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Sepsis is a dysregulated host inflammatory response to infection potentially leading to life-threatening organ dysfunction. The objectives of this study were to determine whether early microvascular dysfunction (MVD) in skeletal muscle can be detected as dynamic changes in microvascular hemoglobin (MVHb) levels using spectroscopy and whether MVD precedes organ histopathology in septic peritonitis. Skeletal muscle of male Sprague–Dawley rats was prepared for intravital microscopy. After intraperitoneal injection of fecal slurry or saline, microscopy and spectroscopy recordings were taken for 6 h. Capillary red blood cell (RBC) dynamics and SO2 were quantified from digitized microscopy frames and MVHb levels were derived from spectroscopy data. Capillary RBC dynamics were significantly decreased by 4 h after peritoneal infection and preceded macrohemodynamic changes. At the same time, low-frequency oscillations in MVHb levels exhibited a significant increase in Power in parts of the muscle and resembled oscillations in RBC dynamics and SO2. After completion of microscopy, tissues were collected. Histopathological alterations were not observed in livers, kidneys, brains, or muscles 6 h after induction of peritonitis. The findings of this study show that, in our rat model of sepsis, MVD occurs before detectable organ histopathology and includes ~ 30-s oscillations in MVHb. Our work highlights MVHb oscillations as one of the indicators of MVD onset and provides a foundation for the use of non-invasive spectroscopy to continuously monitor MVD in septic patients.