Endogenous Heparin-Like Substances Significantly Impair Coagulation in Patients Undergoing Orthotopic Liver Transplantation

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Orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) is associated with severe bleeding, especially after reperfusion of the grafted liver.Heparin released from the liver graft contributes to postreperfusion coagulopathy. Although patients with liver cirrhosis have increased levels of endogenous heparinoids, the role of these substances during liver transplantation is unclear. Therefore, we performed native and heparinase-modified thrombelastography (TEG) in 72 patients undergoing OLT. TEG was performed at skin incision, 10 min before and 10 min after clamping of the vena cava, 10 min before and 10 min after graft perfusion, and at the end of surgery. Heparinase-modified TEG compared with native TEG demonstrated heparin activity. In contrast to other investigations, we found significant heparin effects before reperfusion, although patients received no exogenous heparin. These heparin effects were greater in patients with cirrhosis compared with patients with cancer as the underlying disease leading to OLT. Administration of coagulation factors is the usual treatment of coagulopathies during OLT. The comparison of native versus heparinase-modified TEG can distinguish between heparin activity or coagulation factor deficiency as a cause of bleeding complications and provides a rational approach to the treatment of bleeding during OLT. Implications: Impaired coagulation function, contributed to by heparin or heparin-like substances, is frequently observed after reperfusion of a transplanted liver. This study demonstrates that a heparinase-modified thrombelastography can identify significant heparin effects in the absence of exogenous heparin administration in patients undergoing liver transplantation.

(Anesth Analg 1998;86:691-5)

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