Background & aims: Patients with acute liver injury/failure (ALI/ALF) are assumed to have a bleeding diathesis on the basis of elevated INR; however, clinically significant bleeding is rare. We hypothesized that patients with ALI/ALF have normal hemostasis despite elevated INR.
Methods: Fifty-one patients with ALI/ALF were studied prospectively using thromboelastography (TEG), which measures the dynamics and physical properties of clot formation in whole blood. ALI was defined as an INR ≥1.5 in a patient with no previous liver disease, and ALF as ALI with hepatic encephalopathy.
Results: Thirty-seven of 51 patients (73%) had ALF and 22 patients (43%) underwent liver transplantation or died. Despite a mean INR of 3.4±1.7 (range 1.5-9.6), mean TEG parameters were normal, and 5 individual TEG parameters were normal in 32 (63%). Low maximum amplitude, the measure of ultimate clot strength, was confined to patients with platelet counts <126×10(9)/L. Maximum amplitude was higher in patients with ALF than ALI and correlated directly with venous ammonia concentrations and with increasing severity of liver injury assessed by elements of the systemic inflammatory response syndrome. All patients had markedly decreased procoagulant factor V and VII levels, which were proportional to decreases in anticoagulant proteins and inversely proportional to elevated factor VIII levels.
Conclusions: Despite elevated INR, most patients with ALI/ALF maintain normal hemostasis by TEG, the mechanisms of which include an increase in clot strength with increasing severity of liver injury, increased factor VIII levels, and a commensurate decline in pro- and anticoagulant proteins.
Copyright © 2011 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.