Postpartum hemorrhage is a leading cause of maternal mortality. Antifibrinolytic therapy has the potential to influence outcomes in postpartum hemorrhage, but the incidence of elevated fibrinolytic activity in postpartum hemorrhage is unknown.
We retrospectively reviewed thromboelastography (TEG) results obtained for postpartum hemorrhage from 118 deliveries at The University of Chicago. TEG results were obtained as part of our postpartum hemorrhage protocol when blood loss exceeded 500 mL after vaginal delivery or 1000 mL after cesarean delivery. Our primary outcome was the incidence of elevated fibrinolytic activity, which we predefined as clot lysis ≥3% at 30 minutes (Ly30) on kaolin TEG. Platelet-mediated clot retraction can also lead to an elevated Ly30 on kaolin TEG. Therefore, to distinguish between fibrinolysis and clot retraction, we evaluated clot lysis using functional fibrinogen TEG, which contains a platelet inhibitor. We considered a kaolin TEG Ly30 ≥ 3% in conjunction with a nonzero functional fibrinogen TEG Ly30 suggestive of elevated fibrinolytic activity. We also recorded quantitative blood loss, primary etiology of hemorrhage, standard laboratory measurements of coagulation, and demographic and obstetric characteristics of the study population.
The median kaolin TEG Ly30 was 0.2% (interquartile range: 0%–0.8%). Fifteen of 118 women (12.7%; 95% confidence interval, 7.9%–19.9%) had kaolin TEG Ly30 values ≥3%. Of 15 patients with elevated Ly30 values, functional fibrinogen TEG Ly30 was available for 13, of which none demonstrated detectable clot lysis.
Our observation that none of the patients in our sample with kaolin TEG Ly30 values ≥3% had a nonzero functional fibrinogen TEG Ly30 value suggests that the observed elevations in kaolin TEG Ly30 may have been secondary to platelet-mediated clot retraction as opposed to fibrinolysis. Platelet-mediated clot retraction should be distinguished from fibrinolysis when assayed using viscoelastic techniques in postpartum hemorrhage. Further research is necessary to determine the optimal methods to assess fibrinolytic activity in postpartum hemorrhage.