Alveolar Hemorrhage: An Underdiagnosed Complication of Treatment with Glycoprotein IIb/IIIa Inhibitors

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Alveolar hemorrhage (AH) is a rare complication of treatment with GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors. Hemoptysis, a constant sign, lacks in specificity, and may occur in confounding syndromes such as pulmonary edema, pulmonary infarction, and pneumonia. Nonspecific symptoms and signs often delay the diagnosis, thereby allowing serious or even fatal disease progression. Here, we performed a large-scale retrospective analysis to define the incidence and risk factors of AH in the setting of GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors therapy.


Randomized controlled trials demonstrate that treatment with glycoprotein IIb/IIIa (GP IIb/IIIa) inhibitors may improve the outcome of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and angioplastic procedures. However, this treatment may rarely lead to severe hemorrhagic complications, in particular AH. Unfortunately, the incidence and risk factors of AH remain poorly defined.


We reviewed for the period extending from August 1998 to January 2005 consecutive histories of AMI patients receiving coronary arteriography and treatment with either eptifibatide or abciximab. Concomitantly admitted AMI patients not treated with GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors were reviewed and served as a control group. The diagnosis of AH required the demonstration of typical symptoms and signs including dyspnea, hemoptysis, arterial hypoxemia, pulmonary radiographic changes, and, when available, bronchoscopic signs for AH. Potential covariates including pulmonary disease, pulmonary hypertension, smoking, and use of other anticoagulant or antiplatelet agents were evaluated.


Six of 1,810 patients (0.33%) receiving eptifibatide and five of 3,648 patients (0.14%) receiving abciximab exhibited typical symptoms and signs of AH. Contrarily, only one of 4,136 patients (0.025%) receiving no GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors presented with similar symptoms and signs. There was no fatal outcome, though two patients required blood transfusions. Statistically significant differences were found between control patients and patients receiving eptifibatide alone (P = 0.004). There was also a significant difference between untreated patients and those receiving eptifibatide and abciximab (P = 0.017). No differences were found between eptifibatide and abciximab-treated patients (P = 0.19) or between abciximab and untreated control patients (P = 0.105).


AH is a rare complication of treatment with GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors. Its incidence ranged from 0.14% in patients treated with abciximab to 0.33% in those receiving eptifibatide. Compared to a control group, patients treated with GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors had a statistically increased risk for AH.

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