Profound Platelet Degranulation Is an Important Side Effect of Some Types of Contrast Media Used in Interventional Cardiology

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Thrombotic complications occurring during coronary angiography and percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) are relatively frequent and can be influenced by the type of radiographic contrast media used. Low osmolar contrast media (LOCM), both ionic and nonionic, have been considered to be safer than the older high osmolar contrast media (HOCM), causing less haemodynamic and symptomatic side effects. Recently, however, nonionic LOCM have been associated with an increased incidence of thrombotic events, including coronary occlusion and stroke.

Methods and Results.

The effects of commonly used contrast media on platelets in native blood were investigated using immunolabeling and flow cytometry to detect platelet activation in vitro. A nonionic LOCM (Omnipaque) caused profound platelet degranulation in nearly 80% of platelets compared with 2 to 3% of platelets in the control. Conversely, an ionic HOCM (Urografin) caused only 25% degranulation, whereas an ionic LOCM (Hexabrix) caused no platelet activation and, furthermore, it inhibited the effects of thrombin on platelets. Platelet degranulation, quantified by immunolabeling, was paralleled by release of β-thromboglobulin and platelet factor 4 from platelet α-granules. Blood from patients anticoagulated with heparin and pretreated with standard-dose aspirin in preparation for PTCA showed the same pattern of contrast media-induced platelet activation as normal subjects.


These results suggest that the type of contrast media used during invasive imaging of the vasculature could have a significant effect on platelets. Platelet degranulation within a PTCA-damaged vessel would be increased by a nonionic contrast medium, releasing procoagulant molecules and platelet-derived growth factors into the damaged vessel lumen, which might contribute to acute thrombosis and the initiation of the restenosis process. (Circulation.1993;88[part 1]:2035–2044.)

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