Increased anticoagulant response to low-molecular-weight heparin in plasma from patients with advanced cirrhosis

J Thromb Haemost. 2012 Sep;10(9):1823-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1538-7836.2012.04824.x.


Introduction: Cirrhotic patients may present thrombotic complications that warrant anticoagulant therapy. However, the efficacy of low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) in this clinical setting is still unclear.

Aims/methods: To evaluate the in vitro effect of LMWH on thrombin generation (TG) in cirrhotic patients at different stages of liver disease. Thirty cirrhotics (10 Child Pugh A, 10 Child Pugh B and 10 Child Pugh C), 10 subjects with inherited type 1 antithrombin (AT) defect and 10 healthy controls were studied. TG was determined at baseline and with anti-Xa levels after the addition of enoxaparin at 0.35 and 0.7 U anti-Xa mL. The endogenous thrombin potential (ETP) ratio at 0.35 and 0.7 U anti-Xa mL was obtained by dividing ETP with LMWH by ETP at baseline.

Results: Mean AT levels in all cirrhotic subgroups and in patients with AT deficiency were significantly lower than in controls. The 0.35 ETP ratio was significantly lower in cirrhotic patients than in controls (0.26 ± 0.1 vs. 0.48 ± 0.1, P < 0.001) and the reduction paralleled the severity of liver disease, in spite of the concomitant decrease in AT and anti-Xa activity. AT-deficient subjects showed a significantly increased 0.35 ETP ratio compared with both cirrhotic patients and controls (0.69 ± 1 vs. 0.26 ± 0.1, P < 0.001, and vs. 0.48 ± 0.1, P = 0.04 respectively). LMWH at 0.7 U anti-Xa mL completely inhibited TG in 9/30 cirrhosis patients with more advanced liver disease (Child Pugh B and C), whereas complete TG abolition was seen in only 1/10 controls.

Conclusions: Cirrhotic patients show an increased response to LMWH, which correlates with the severity of liver disease, in spite of reduced AT and anti-Xa activity levels. Thrombin generation may be a useful tool to monitor the response to LMWH in cirrhotic patients.

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight / blood
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / drug therapy*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Anticoagulants
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight