Anticoagulation and anticoagulation reversal with cardiac surgery involving cardiopulmonary bypass: An update

G. J. Despotis, J. H. Joist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

86 Scopus citations


Accelerated thrombin generation is central to the development of hemostatic abnormalities during cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) that are associated with both thromboembolic complications and serious, abnormal bleeding. Thrombin not only converts fibrinogen to fibrin, but also activates platelets and coagulation factors V, VIII, and XI and causes release of von Willebrand factor from vascular endothelium. Thrombin can also downregulate the hemostatic system by inducing formation of platelet inhibitory agents, such as nitric oxide and prostacyclin, and release of tissue plasminogen activator, facilitating activation of protein C, and releasing tissue factor pathway inhibitor. Excessive thrombin activity may also result in substantial consumption of platelets, fibrinogen, and labile coagulation factors and abnormal bleeding. Elevated tissue plasminogen activator levels secondary to activation of the contact system and surgery catalyze the formation of plasmin, which also consumes or internalizes platelet glycoprotein receptors and coagulation factors V, VIII, and fibrinogen. Heparin can reduce the generation of and mediate neutralization of excessive and CPB associated thrombin activity. Heparin anticoagulation is commonly monitored with the activated clotting time (ACT). However, the ACT may be prolonged by factors other than heparin during CPB, such as hemodilution and hypothermia, and therefore may not accurately reflect the extent of anticoagulation by heparin. Aprotinin, a nonspecific serine protease inhibitor used with CPB, can also prolong celite-based ACT values, rendering it less reliable for monitoring heparin anticoagulation. Therefore, several alternative anticoagulation strategies have been recommended when aprotinin is used, such as a higher celite ACT trigger (>750 seconds), monitoring of whole blood heparin concentrations (eg, >2.7 U/mL), or administration of heparin based on a CPB duration-dependent, fixed-dose regimen. Administration of heparin doses higher than those generally recommended, as guided by predetermined, patient- specific whole blood heparin concentration measurements during bypass, can reduce excessive thrombin-mediated consumption of platelets and coagulation factors as well as post-CPB blood loss and blood component transfusions. New modalities of improving suppression of excess thrombin generation during CPB include use of heparin-bonded CPB circuits, heparin cofactor II or related analogs, supplemental antithrombin III, direct thrombin inhibitors (eg, hirudin, argatroban), and inhibitors of the contact and tissue factor pathways. The safety and efficacy of these approaches remains to be established by additional, appropriately powered, prospective studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-29
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Anesthesia
Issue number4 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Aug 23 1999


  • Activated clotting time
  • Cardiopulmonary bypass
  • Heparin
  • Thrombin

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Anticoagulation and anticoagulation reversal with cardiac surgery involving cardiopulmonary bypass: An update'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this