Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia in cardiac surgery and critically ill patients

Journal: Thrombosis and Haemostasis
ISSN: 0340-6245

Theme Issue
Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia in 2017 and beyond

Issue: 2016: 116/5 (Nov) pp. 777-1002
Pages: 843-851
Ahead of Print: 2016-07-14

Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia in cardiac surgery and critically ill patients

Theme Issue Article to Theme Issue "Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia"

S. Selleng (1), K. Selleng (2)

(1) Department of Anaesthesiology, University Medicine Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany; (2) Institute of Immunology and Transfusion Medicine, University Medicine Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany


intensive care unit, Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, cardiac surgery


Thrombocytopenia as well as anti-platelet factor 4/heparin (PF4/H) antibodies are common in cardiac surgery patients and those treated in the intensive care unit. In contrast, heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) is uncommon in these populations (~1 % and ~0.5 %, respectively). A stepwise approach where testing for anti-PF4/H antibodies is performed only in patients with typical clinical symptoms of HIT improves diagnostic specificity of the laboratory assays without losing sensitivity, thereby helping to avoid overdiagnosis and resulting HIT overtreatment. Short-term re-exposure to heparin, especially given intraoperatively for cardiovascular surgery, is a reasonable therapeutic option in patients with a history of HIT who subsequently test negative for HIT antibodies. Organ failure(s), enhanced bleeding risks, and other characteristics require special considerations regarding non-heparin anticoagulation: Argatroban is the alternative anticoagulant with pharmacokinetics independent of renal function, but it has a prolonged half-life in case of impaired liver function. For bivalirudin, protocols during cardiopulmonary bypass surgery are established, and it is suitable for patients with liver insufficiency. A major issue of direct thrombin inhibitors are false high activated partial thromboplastin time values in patients with comorbidities affecting prothrombin, which can result in systematic underdosing of the drugs. This is not the case for danaparoid and fondaparinux, which can be monitored by anti-factor Xa assays, but have long half-lives and no suitable antidote. This review includes also information on management of on- and off-pump cardiac surgery, ventricular assist devices, percutaneous interventions, continuous renal replacement therapy, and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation in patients with HIT.

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