Orthotopic liver transplantation may be associated during the postoperative period with hepatic artery thrombosis, a catastrophic occurrence generally necessitating emergency retransplantation. To assess the contribution of the coagulation mechanism to this complication, the levels of procoagulant and anticoagulant proteins were followed in 41 liver transplant patients during the first 10 postoperative days. The mean activities of all procoagulant factors reach normal values on day 1 except for factors V and VII, which achieve normal activity by day 3. Supernormal levels of factór VIII activity and antigen are noted (peak values on day 5 of 334% ± 113% and 481% ± 260%, respectively). The anticoagulant proteins show delayed recovery, with deficient antithrombin III levels seen in 81% of patients on day 3 and 57% on day 5. Similarly, proteins C and S are subnormal in 24% and 21%, respectively on day 3, and 20% and 10%, respectively, on day 5. During this period, elevated levels of thrombin/antithrombin complexes are encountered, reflecting in vivo activation of the coagulation mechanism. Activated thrombin is, therefore, being generated at a time when a decrease in the major regulatory anticoagulant proteins exists. These data suggest an imbalance between the hemostatic and thrombotic mechanisms and indicate a sustained prothrombotic state that may contribute to the risk for hepatic artery thrombosis. Using a regimen of low-dose heparin and fresh frozen plasma infusion, no thromboses have been seen in 65 consecutive liver transplants. (HEPATOLOGY 1990;12:553–558).
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