Certainly, nobody during the autumn of 1990, when the 1st Congress of Anesthesiology & Intensive Medicine was first inaugurated, had any idea of the impact and the influence this new institution would gain in the years to come. This very first congress was under the organizational presidency of Dr. Nikos Balamoutsos, respectable teacher and skillful director in the field.

But this was not a surprise; Thessaloniki had already experienced pioneering in Anesthesiology. Dr. Spyros Makris (1926-1978) was the first ever Professor of Anesthesiology in Greece (1974) at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He wrote the very first textbooks of Anesthesiology in Greek and published more than one hundred papers, in Science, Anaesthesia and Analgesia, and other journals. This is the reason why during the opening ceremony, the honorary lecture has his name and is assigned to an academic with a broader scientific flair, normally from the local medical community.

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Adequate adrenocortical function is essential to survive critical illness. The goal of this study was to determine whether eosinophilia could serve as a useful and early marker of adrenal insufficiency in critically ill patients with severe septic shock. During a 1-year period, we prospectively studied 294 ICU patients.16 patients (5.4% of ICU admissions) with eosinophilia more than 3% of the white blood cell count and septic shock unresponsive to adequate fluid and vasopressor therapy, were included. A high dose (250 mcg i.v) corticotropin stimulation test was performed. Eosinophilia (>3%) was diagnosed in 16 patients with vasopressor-unresponsive septic shock. Eosinophilia was present 1.9±0.9d (range 8-96h) before the onset of septic shock. 11/16 patients failed to respond to corticotropin stimulation test above the critical level of 9 mcg/dL rise and 2/16 had baseline cortisol concentration <10 mcg/dL. Baseline cortisol level, maximal cortisol increase post-corticotropin administration and Eosinophils count (%) were higher in survivors (p≤0.05). A hydrocortisone infusion (300mg/d) treatment resulted in haemodynamic improvement in 12 of 16 patients (75%). The 28-day mortality (following the onset of septic shock) was 43.7%. Relative eosinophilia may be considered as a useful and early bioassay for adrenocortical function assessment in critically ill patients with septic shock and assumed adrenocortical depression.

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Inevitably, ethical dilemmas and end-of-life decisions are issues that need to be faced in the common practice of intensive care units. In this review these dilemmas are approached through the medical ethical issues of patient autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice. Patient autonomy is further analyzed as opposed to medical paternalism with reference to historical, political, social and legal particularities.

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