Bleeding can be a significant problem after cardiac surgery. As a result, venous thromboembolism (VTE) or anticoagulation or both following mechanical valve implantation are often delayed in these patients. The calibrated automated thrombin (CAT) generation assay has become the gold standard to evaluate thrombin generation, a critical step in clot formation independent of other hemostatic processes (eg, platelet activation, fibrin cross-linking, and fibrinolysis), and is increasingly used to examine thrombotic and hemorrhagic outcomes. No study has currently used this assay to compare the thrombin generation profiles of cardiac surgical patients to noncardiac surgical patients. We hypothesize that noncardiac patients may be less prone to postoperative changes in thrombin generation.
A prospective, observational, cohort study was undertaken using blood samples from 50 cardiac and 50 noncardiac surgical patients preoperatively, immediately postoperatively, and on postoperative days 1 to 4. Platelet-poor plasma samples were obtained from patients preoperatively, on arrival to the postanesthesia care unit (PACU) or intensive care unit (ICU), and daily on postoperative days 1 to 4 if patients remained inpatient. Samples were evaluated for CAT measurements. Patient and surgical procedure characteristics were obtained from the electronic medical record.
The primary outcome variable, median endogenous thrombin potential (ETP), measured in nanomolar × minutes (nM × min), was decreased 100% in cardiac surgical versus 2% in noncardiac patients (P < .001). All parameters of thrombin generation were similarly depressed. Cardiac (versus noncardiac) surgical type was associated with −76.5% difference of percent change in ETP on multivariable regression analysis (95% confidence interval [CI], −87.4 to −65.5; P value <.001).
Cardiac surgical patients exhibit a profound decrease in thrombin generation postoperatively compared with noncardiac surgical patients evaluated by this study. Hemodilution and coagulation factor depletion likely contribute to this decreased thrombin generation after cardiac surgery.