Coagulopathies of liver disease

Clin Lab Med. 1994 Dec;14(4):769-80.


Disturbed liver parenchymal cell function adversely impacts on the hemostasis system, the extent of which correlates with the degree of liver disease. Because liver parenchymal cells synthesize most factors of the clotting and the fibrinolytic systems, levels of these procoagulant and anticoagulant as well as profibrinolytic and antifibrinolytic factors will decrease in plasma. These changes may be minor in patients with mild liver disease but are severe in patients with cirrhosis. Thrombocytopenia and thrombocytopathy usually complicate the clinical presentation, and systemic activation of the fibrinolytic system is always seen in cirrhotic individuals. Whether this fibrinolytic activation is primary or secondary in response to DIC is controversial. Some of the laboratory findings in DIC may be a reflection of decreased hepatic clearance of activation products by the reticuloendothelial system of the diseased liver. In patients with vitamin K deficiency or in those receiving oral anticoagulants, only the vitamin K-dependent procoagulants and anticoagulants are altered; all other parameters remain in the normal range. Laboratory changes associated with various surgical interventions involving the liver depend on the underlying pathology. Severe hemorrhages are encountered during orthotopic liver transplantation. During the anhepatic phase and during the reperfusion phase, there is a major activation of the fibrinolytic system. It is unclear whether this fibrinolytic response is primary or secondary. The use of antifibrinolytic agents has markedly reduced the clinical bleeding and, thus, the requirement for blood and blood products. Bleeding associated with partial liver resection is usually mechanical in nature, but peritoneovenous shunt operations can result in DIC. Ascites fluid is the trigger. The injection of thrombin containing sclerosants can also activate the hemostasis system in vivo, although, generally, no clinically detectable adverse reactions are noted.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Blood Coagulation Disorders / etiology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Liver / surgery
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications
  • Liver Diseases / complications*
  • Vitamin K Deficiency / complications