Fifty-four patients (mean age of 64 ±7.5 yr, 72% were men) undergoing open heart surgery owing to coronary heart disease or heart valve replacement were prospectively enrolled in this study, which was performed with the approval of the ethics committee of the University Halle-Wittenberg. Informed consent was obtained from the patients. The patients spent an average of 3.4 ± 1.2 d in intensive care. Patient's mean white blood cell counts ranged from 8.3 to 13.7 X 103 cells/mm3 with a peak on day 1. Preoperatively, as well as on days 1, 3, 7, and 10, 2.7 mL EDTA-treated venous blood was obtained. Fourteen healthy, age-matched individuals served as controls.

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