Inflammation and coagulation are so tightly linked that the cytokine storm which accompanies the development of sepsis initiates thrombin activation and the development of an intravascular coagulopathy. This review examines the interaction between the inflammatory and coagulation cascades, as well as the role of endogenous anticoagulants in regulating this interaction and dampening the activity of both pathways. Clinical trials attempting to improve outcomes in patients with severe sepsis by inhibiting thrombin generation with heparin and or endogenous anticoagulants are reviewed. In general, these trials have failed to demonstrate that anticoagulant therapy is associated with improvement in mortality or morbidity. While it is possible that selective patients who are severely ill with a high expected mortality may be shown to benefit from such therapy, at the present time none of these anticoagulants are neither approved nor can they be recommended for the treatment of sepsis.
Keywords: Antithrombin; Coagulation; Heparin; Inflammation; Neutrophil extracellular traps; Protein C; Sepsis; Thrombomodulin; Tissue factor pathway inhibitor.