Recombinant activated factor VII (rFVIIa) as a hemostatic agent in liver disease: A break from convention in need of controlled trials

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Abstract

The management of coagulopathy in patients with acute and chronic liver disease has undergone little change in many years despite advances in our understanding of the pathogenesis of this problem. In general, deficiency of clotting factors as a result of poor hepatic synthetic function accounts for most of the coagulopathy. However, other processes such as disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), hyperfibrinolysis, dysfibrinogenemia, hemolysis, and a decrease in number or function of platelets may be present and thus add to the complexity of the problem. Coexisting portal hypertension and the associated risks of volume expansion, renal failure, and endothelial dysfunction add even more difficulty to the management of these patients. The clinician's despair is only exacerbated by uncertainty regarding the significance of laboratory indices of coagulation and the lack of agreement between health care providers regarding how to use these indices. Simple, conventional interventions such as vitamin K or plasma administration often produce only limited amelioration, and the latter carries the potential disadvantage of volume overexpansion as well as the risk of infection and transfusion reactions. Into this complex and uncertain clinical situation has arrived the antihemophilic agent recombinant activated factor VII (rFVIIa). Its development has led to a fundamental re-evaluation of the classic understanding of the normal clotting cascade. Moreover, use of this product in liver disease patients is increasing despite the lack of definitive studies or literature to guide therapy. Herein we review the mechanism of action of this agent, report the clinical applications in patients with liver disease, address the limitations and risks associated with the drug, and discuss the issue of its cost-effectiveness. (HEPATOLOGY 2004;39:592–598)

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