Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) is an immune-mediated adverse reaction to heparin. Patients undergoing cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) are routinely anticoagulated with heparin before the initiation of bypass. Heparin is contraindicated, however, in patients with acute HIT, and alternatives to routine practice are often used. While guidelines have recently been published addressing this topic 10, there remains variance between institutions in how these cases are treated. Our goal was to better delineate practice trends in the diagnosis and management of HIT patients requiring CPB.
We surveyed members of the Society of Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists (SCA) and the American Society for Extracorporeal Technology (AmSECT) using an online survey tool.
We received 304 completed surveys (5.8% response rate), 75% completed by an anesthesiologist, and 24% by a perfusionist. The majority of respondents used clinical history and/or antibody testing (71% and 63%, respectively) to diagnose HIT. Seventy-five percent of respondents reported using an institutional protocol for HIT-CPB cases. Most respondents (89%) reported having at least 1 case in the last 3 years, with a total case experience of at least 785 cases (785 = the minimum number of cases in each case volume category × the number of respondents choosing that category). The strategy recommended in published guidelines, bivalirudin, was the most commonly reported alternative anticoagulation strategy (75%) used by respondents in HIT cases, with most (83%) using the activated clotting time (ACT) to monitor anticoagulation.
Most responding SCA and AmSECT members reported that their institution used a protocol or guideline for HIT/CPB cases, and most guidelines directed the use of bivalirudin as an alternative anticoagulant. Various other methods such as plasmapheresis are also being used with success in this patient population. Further research, including comparison studies of alternative anticoagulant strategies, is required to elucidate the best approach to these difficult cases.