Platelets in liver transplantation: Friend or foe?

Authors

  • Ilona T. A. Pereboom,

    1. Section of Hepatobiliary Surgery and Liver Transplantation, Department of Surgery, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
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  • Ton Lisman,

    1. Section of Hepatobiliary Surgery and Liver Transplantation, Department of Surgery, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
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  • Robert J. Porte

    Corresponding author
    1. Section of Hepatobiliary Surgery and Liver Transplantation, Department of Surgery, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
    • Section of Hepatobiliary Surgery and Liver Transplantation, Department of Surgery, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 30.001, 9700 RB Groningen, The Netherlands
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    • Telephone: 31-50-3612896; FAX: 31-50-3614873


Abstract

Apart from the well-known role of blood platelets in hemostasis, there is emerging evidence that platelets have various nonhemostatic properties that play a critical role in inflammation, angiogenesis, tissue repair and regeneration, and ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury. All these processes may be involved in the (patho)physiological alterations occurring in patients undergoing liver transplantation. Experimental and clinical research points toward a dualistic role of platelets in patients undergoing liver transplantation, resulting in both beneficial and detrimental effects. Although a low platelet count is generally considered a risk factor for perioperative bleeding, recent studies have indicated that platelet function in patients with cirrhosis may not be as abnormal as previously assumed. Platelet transfusions are frequently considered in liver transplant recipients to correct low platelet counts and to prevent bleeding; however, evidence-based transfusion thresholds are lacking, and the other detrimental and nonhemostatic properties of platelets are generally not weighed in this respect. First, platelets have been shown to contribute to I/R injury of the liver graft via induction of sinusoidal endothelial cell apoptosis. Second, platelet transfusion has been identified as an independent risk factor for reduced survival via mechanisms that are not completely understood yet. On the other hand, recent studies indicate that platelets are critically involved in restoration after liver injury and in liver regeneration via serotonin-mediated mechanisms. These findings make platelets both friend and foe in liver transplantation. The scientific challenge will be to further dissect the mechanisms and clinical relevance of these contrasting roles of platelets in liver transplantation. Liver Transpl 14:923–931, 2008. © 2008 AASLD.

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