Global Hemostasis in Pregnancy: Are We Using Thromboelastography to Its Full Potential?

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Pregnancy is a unique situation where significant physiological changes in all maternal organ systems take place. Most of these changes return to normal after delivery. During normal pregnancy the hemostatic balance changes in the direction of hypercoagulability, thus decreasing bleeding complications at time of delivery. The pregnancy-associated hypercoagulability sets a foundation for hemostatic abnormalities during pregnancy and may be associated with pregnancy complications. Assessment of the hemostatic status in pregnancy and its complications can be critical to diagnosis and management not only within the obstetric ward but in trauma, anesthesia, and other situations. Conventional global tests such as prothrombin time and activated partial thromboplastin time cannot define this status appropriately, and full assessment requires measurements of several parameters. Thromboelastography (TEG) is a global hemostatic test that can analyze both coagulation and fibrinolysis. The technique has been available since the 1940s, but only recently has it shown great impact within the clinical practice arena. TEG measures the interactive dynamic coagulation process from the initial fibrin formation to platelet interaction and clot strengthening to fibrinolysis, which makes it superior to other conventional tests. In addition, TEG can guide therapy by documenting changes in coagulation in vitro before a therapy is instituted and also by helping the clinician make critical decisions. Despite the clear value as a test for monitoring hemostatic status of pregnancy-related complications, TEG is still underused for reasons such as poor awareness regarding the technique and interpretations, lack of full standardization, and the unavailability of large clinical studies. However, the fact remains that TEG is undoubtedly attractive to both researchers and clinicians, particularly in a point-of-care setting. We hope that much more investment is directed to TEG studies in both experimental and clinical fields to improve applications and promote use, especially with respect to clinical decision making in pregnancy-related complications.

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