Monitoring and Treatment of Coagulation Disorders in End-Stage Liver Disease.
Background: Patients with end-stage liver disease (ESLD) are assumed to be at high risk of bleeding when undergoing any kind of invasive intervention (any kind of operation, including transplantation or minimally invasive interventions). Both bleeding and thrombosis are associated with a poor outcome.
Methods: A selective literature research was conducted with the following key words: ‘cirrhosis’, ‘coagulation’, ‘bleeding’, ‘INR’ (international normalized ratio), ‘aPTT’ (activated partial thromboplastin time), and ‘thrombocytopenia’. PubMed was used as the basic database.
Results: Pathological values of standard laboratory tests (SLT) and thrombocytopenia have traditionally been regarded as indicators of a high risk for bleeding in all patients, and especially in those with ESLD. However, this approach has been challenged in recent years. The conventional approach in assessing a bleeding risk was based on pathological values of SLT. A 1.5-fold increase of INR or aPTT or platelets < 50/nl is assumed as pathological. The traditional approach of reducing the risk of excessive bleeding during an invasive procedure was to transfuse fresh frozen plasma (FFP) or platelet concentrates in order to improve hemostasis and to avoid bleeding complications. In the recent 20 years, several studies have provided us with a basis for questioning this approach. Their results indicated that SLT were not able to predict hypocoagulation and bleeding complications. Moreover, transfusion of various blood products has been associated with an increased risk for acute lung injury, transfusion-associated circulation overload, bacterial infections, and modulation of the immune system with increased numbers of nosocomial infections. Furthermore, a high volume overload, which is required to correct a hemostasis disorder if FFP are being used in ESLD patients, may increase portal venous pressure. This might significantly increase bleeding in these ESLD patients. Although the first publication about the successful use of a viscoelastic test (VET) in liver transplantation dates back to 1985, physicians are still very reluctant to use VETs (Thrombelastography™ and/or ROTEM™) for the perioperative optimization of hemostasis. However, some very recent studies demonstrated that the use of VETs for assessing the risk of bleeding avoids futile transfusion with a similar safety profile. The implementation of ROTEM-based coagulation management and the use of coagulation factors (prothrombin complex, fibrinogen concentrate) have led to a highly significant reduction of FFP and red blood cell transfusions, without an increased incidence of thrombosis or bleeding.
Conclusion: Patients with ESLD often show pathological values of conventional parameters used to analyze coagulation hemostasis. Without overt signs of excessive bleeding, however, they do not require coagulation treatment. The use of FFP, which is associated with fluid overload and increase in portal venous pressure, should be avoided. The preferable coagulation treatment should be based on VET-guided administration of coagulation factor concentrates.