METHODS: Twenty adult venoarterial (VA) ECMO patients had procoagulant and anticoagulant factor levels measured temporally on ECMO day 1 or 2, day 3, and day 5. In heparin-neutralized plasma, underlying TG patterns, and sensitivity to activated protein C were assessed using calibrated automated thrombogram. TG parameters including lag time, peak TG, and endogenous thrombin potential (ETP) were compared against 5 normal plasma controls (3 males and 2 females) obtained from a commercial supplier. Thrombomodulin (TM) was added to some samples to evaluate for activated protein C resistance.
RESULTS: Procoagulant factors (factor [F] II, FV, and FX) were mostly in normal reference ranges and gradually increased during the first 5 ECMO days (P = .022, <.001, <.001). FVIII levels were elevated at all time points and did not change (P = .766). In contrast, FXI was in the low-normal range but did not increase during ECMO (P = .093). Antithrombin (AT) and protein C levels were below normal but increased during the first 5 ECMO days (P = .002 and P = .014). Heparinase-treated samples showed prolonged lag time, increased peak TG, and increased ETP compared to controls; mean difference in lag time on ECMO day 1 or 2 = 6.0 minutes (99% confidence interval [CI], 2.8–9.2), peak TG = 193.4 (99% CI, 122.5–264.3), and ETP = 1170.4 (99% CI, 723.2–1617.6). After in vitro TM treatment, differences in TG parameters were accentuated and ECMO samples appeared insensitive to TM treatment; mean difference in lag time on ECMO day 1 or 2 = 9.3 minutes (99% CI, 6.2–12.4), peak TG = 233.0 (99% CI, 140.9–325.1), and ETP = 1322.5 (99% CI, 764.8–1880.2). Similar differences in TG parameters were observed on ECMO days 3 and 5.
CONCLUSIONS: Contact activation occurs during ECMO, but procoagulant factor levels are generally preserved. Although heparin-neutralized TG is delayed, peak TG and ETP are supranormal in the setting of high FVIII and low AT and protein C levels. Resistance to TM is also apparent. These changes demonstrate a possible mechanism for hypercoagulability during adult VA ECMO.