Sepsis is often associated with haemostatic changes ranging from subclinical activation of blood coagulation (hypercoagulability), which may contribute to localized venous thromboembolism, to acute disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), characterized by widespread microvascular thrombosis and subsequent consumption of platelets and coagulation proteins, eventually causing bleeding manifestations. The key event underlying this life-threatening complication is the overwhelming inflammatory host response to the infectious agent leading to the overexpression of inflammatory mediators. The latter, along with the micro-organism and its derivatives are now believed to drive the major changes responsible for massive thrombin formation and fibrin deposition, namely 1) the aberrant expression of the TF by different cells (especially monocytes-macrophages), 2) the impairment of physiological anticoagulant pathways, orchestrated mainly by dysfunctional endothelial cells (ECs) and 3) the suppression of fibrinolysis due to overproduction of plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) by ECs and likely also to thrombin-mediated activation of thrombin-activatable fibrinolysis inhibitor (TAFI). The ensuing microvascular thrombosis and ischemia are thought to contribute to tissue injury and multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS). Recent evidence indicates that extracellular nuclear materials released from activated and especially apoptotic or necrotic cells, e.g. High Mobility Group Box-1 (HMGB-1) and histones, are endowed with cell toxicity, proinflammatory and clot-promoting properties and thus, during sepsis, they may represent late mediators that propagate further inflammation, coagulation, cell death and MODS. These insights into the pathogenesis of DIC and MODS may have implications for the development of new therapeutic agents potentially useful for the management of severe sepsis.
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