Coagulopathy in liver disease: a balancing act

Jody L Kujovich
Hematology—the Education Program of the American Society of Hematology 2015, 2015: 243-9
Liver disease results in complex alterations of all 3 phases of hemostasis. It is now recognized that hemostasis is rebalanced in chronic liver disease. The fall in clotting factor levels is accompanied by a parallel fall in anticoagulant proteins. High von Willebrand factor levels counteract defects in primary hemostasis. Conventional coagulation tests do not fully reflect the derangement in hemostasis and do not accurately predict the risk of bleeding. Global coagulation assays (thrombin generation, thromboelastography) reflect the interaction between procoagulant factors, anticoagulant factors, platelets, and the fibrinolytic system and show promise for assessing bleeding risk and guiding therapy. These assays are not yet commercially approved or validated. Prevention of bleeding should not be aimed at correcting conventional coagulation tests. Thrombopoietin receptor agonists were shown to increase the platelet count in cirrhotic patients undergoing invasive procedures but may increase the risk of thrombosis. Rebalanced hemostasis in liver disease is precarious and may be tipped toward hemorrhage or thrombosis depending on coexisting circumstantial risk factors. Bacterial infection may impair hemostasis in cirrhosis by triggering the release of endogenous heparinoids. There are no evidence-based guidelines for hemostatic therapy of acute hemorrhage in liver disease. There is currently inadequate evidence to support the use of recombinant FVIIa, prothrombin complex concentrates, or tranexamic acid in acute variceal or other hemorrhage.

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