Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia and cardiac surgery
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Unfractionated heparin given during cardiopulmonary bypass is remarkably immunogenic, as 25% to 50% of postcardiac surgery patients develop heparin-dependent antibodies during the next 5 to 10 days. Sometimes, these antibodies strongly activate platelets and coagulation, thereby causing the prothrombotic disorder, heparin-induced thrombocytopenia. The risk of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia is 1% to 3% if unfractionated heparin is continued beyond the first postoperative week. When cardiac surgery is urgently needed for a patient with acute or subacute heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, options include an alternative anticoagulant (bivalirudin, lepirudin, or danaparoid) or combining unfractionated heparin with a platelet antagonist (epoprostenol or tirofiban). As heparin-induced thrombocytopenia antibodies are transient, unfractionated heparin alone is appropriate in a patient with previous heparin-induced thrombocytopenia whose antibodies have disappeared.
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