BackgroundIn patients with septic shock, the skin is often chosen for the evaluation of peripheral perfusion and oxygenation. Changes in skin microcirculatory vessel oxygen saturation and relative hemoglobin concentration can be described using a mottling score or captured with hyperspectral imaging. However, the effectiveness of the mottling score in assessing microcirculation remains to be shown. We hypothesize that the mottling score in patients with septic shock is related to skin microcirculatory perfusion indices quantified by hyperspectral imaging, biomarkers that reflect endothelium activation and damage, and clinical outcome.MethodsHyperspectral imaging of the knee area was performed in 95 intensive care patients with septic shock enrolled in a single-center observational study to obtain relative oxy/deoxyhemoglobin concentration values and construct anatomical maps of skin microcirculatory saturation. The blood was sampled to obtain concentrations of thrombomodulin, plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1), soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1), angiopoietin-2, and syndecan-1. The spectrophotometrically obtained skin microvascular perfusion indices were compared to the mottling score and biomarker concentration. The association between mottling score, skin microcirculatory perfusion indices, and 28-day mortality was also analyzed.ResultsMicrocirculatory oxygen saturation was significantly lower and total hemoglobin concentration was significantly higher in patients with a mottling score of 2 compared to those with a score of 0 (p = 0.02), with no difference between other scores. We found an association between microcirculatory oxygen saturation and PAI-1 levels (rho = − 0.3; p = 0.007). Increased mottling score and decreased microcirculatory oxygen saturation were predictive of 28-day mortality (mottling score 2 vs 0: OR 15.31, 95% CI 4.12–68.11; microcirculatory oxygen saturation: OR 0.90, 95% CI 0.85–0.95). Endothelial biomarkers did not increase the predictive value of skin microcirculatory perfusion indices.ConclusionsHigher mottling scores are associated with lower microcirculatory oxygen saturation but with significant overlap between scores. Microcirculatory oxygen saturation is a quantitative measure of peripheral oxygenation and is more specific than the mottling score in predicting 28-day mortality.