Platelets are dominant contributors to hypercoagulability after injury

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Venous thromboembolic (VTE) disease has a high incidence following trauma, but debate remains regarding optimal prophylaxis. Thrombelastography (TEG) has been suggested to be optimal in guiding prophylaxis. Thus, we designed a phase II randomized controlled trial to test the hypothesis that TEG-guided prophylaxis with escalating low–molecular weight heparin (LMWH), followed by antiplatelet therapy would reduce VTE incidence.


Surgical intensive care unit trauma patients (n = 50) were randomized to receive 5,000 IU of LMWH daily (control) or to TEG-guided prophylaxis, up to 5,000 IU twice daily with the addition of aspirin, and were followed up for 5 days. In vitro studies were also conducted in which apheresis platelets were added to blood from healthy volunteers (n = 10).


Control (n = 25) and TEG-guided prophylaxis (n = 25) groups were similar in age, body mass index, Injury Severity Score, and male sex. Fibrinogen levels and platelet counts did not differ, and increased LMWH did not affect clot strength between the control and study groups. The correlation of clot strength (G value) with fibrinogen was stronger on Days 1 and 2 but was superseded by platelet count on Days 3, 4, and 5. There was also a trend in increased platelet contribution to clot strength in patients receiving increased LMWH. In vitro studies demonstrated apheresis platelets significantly increased clot strength (7.19 ± 0.35 to 10.34 ± 0.29), as well as thrombus generation (713.86 ± 12.19 to 814.42 ± 7.97) and fibrin production (274.03 ± 15.82 to 427.95 ± 16.58).


Increased LMWH seemed to increase platelet contribution to clot strength early in the study but failed to affect the overall rise clot strength. Over time, platelet count had the strongest correlation with clot strength, and in vitro studies demonstrated that increased platelet counts increase fibrin production and thrombus generation. In sum, these data suggest an important role for antiplatelet therapy in VTE prophylaxis following trauma, particularly after 48 hours.


Therapeutic study, level III.

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