Thromboelastography as a Better Indicator of Hypercoagulable State After Injury Than Prothrombin Time or Activated Partial Thromboplastin Time

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Abstract

Objectives:

To investigate the hemostatic status of critically ill, nonbleeding trauma patients. We hypothesized that a hypercoagulable state exists in patients early after severe injury and that the pattern of clotting and fibrinolysis are similar between burned and nonburn trauma patients.

Materials:

Patients admitted to the surgical or burn intensive care unit within 24 hours after injury were enrolled. Blood samples were drawn on days 0 through 7. Laboratory tests included prothrombin time (PT), activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT), levels of activated factor XI, D-dimer, protein C percent activity, antithrombin III percent activity, and thromboelastography (TEG).

Results:

Study subjects were enrolled from April 1, 2004, to May 31, 2005, and included nonburn trauma patients (n = 33), burned patients (n = 25), and healthy (control) subjects (n = 20). Despite aggressive thromboprophylaxis, three subjects (2 burned and 1 nonburn trauma patients [6%]) had pulmonary embolism during hospitalization. Compared with controls, all patients had prolonged PT and aPTT (p < 0.05). The rate of clot formation (α angle) and maximal clot strength were higher for patients compared with those of controls (p < 0.05), indicating a hypercoagulable state. Injured patients also had lower protein C and antithrombin III percent activities and higher fibrinogen levels (p < 0.05 for all). Activated factor XI was elevated in 38% of patients (control subjects had undetectable levels).

Discussion:

Thromboelastography analysis of whole blood showed that patients were in a hypercoagulable state; this was not detected by plasma PT or aPTT. The high incidence of pulmonary embolism indicated that our current prophylaxis regimen could be improved.

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