Purpose: Bivalirudin use for anticoagulating patients undergoing cardiac surgery, particularly those with or at risk for heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, has expanded over the past several years. The purpose of this review is to provide a summary of the following: the differences between indirect and direct thrombin inhibition, unfractionated heparin's limitations (i.e., heparin-induced thrombocytopenia), bivalirudin's pharmacology, recent cardiac surgery trials comparing bivalirudin and unfractionated heparin as anticoagulants, the growing role of bivalirudin-mediated anticoagulation for various surgical procedures, and the potential of bivalirudin-mediated vascular graft patency.
Source: A systematic search of the English literature was performed using PubMed from the United States National Library of Medicine. Pertinent articles from 1992-2010 were obtained from this search, and their reference lists were used to retrieve additional relevant articles.
Principal findings: In small studies in the cardiac surgery arena, bivalirudin has demonstrated a similar safety and efficacy profile compared with unfractionated heparin. Bivalirudin's role as an anticoagulant in various cardiac surgical procedures (i.e., heart transplant) and vascular surgical procedures is growing and reviewed. Additionally, the molecular basis for the potential for bivalirudin-mediated improvement in vascular graft patency after coronary artery bypass graft procedures is discussed.
Conclusion: Although bivalirudin is not approved for cardiac surgery in the United States, it can be used in this setting in Canada as an anticoagulant in patients with heparin-induced thrombocytopenia provided the cardiac anesthesiologist is knowledgeable about potential complications from its use and knows how to manage or mitigate their incidence appropriately. During cardiopulmonary bypass, bivalirudin anticoagulation protocols must be thoroughly followed to attain optimal clinical outcomes. Additionally, further studies with bivalirudin are needed to determine the best monitoring modality and dosing regimen.