Cirrhosis can involve “precarious” changes in hemostatic pathways that tip the scales toward either bleeding or hypercoagulation, experts wrote in an American Gastroenterological Association Clinical Practice Update.
Based on current evidence, clinicians should not routinely correct thrombocytopenia and coagulopathy in patients with cirrhosis prior to low-risk procedures, such as therapeutic paracentesis, thoracentesis, and routine upper endoscopy for variceal ligation, Jacqueline G. O’Leary, MD, of Dallas VA Medical Center and her three coreviewers wrote in.
To optimize clot formation prior to high-risk procedures, and in patients with active bleeding, a platelet count above 50,000 per mcL is still recommended. However, it may be more meaningful to couple that platelet target with a fibrinogen level above 120 mg/dL rather than rely on the international normalized ratio (INR), the experts wrote. Not only does INR vary significantly depending on which thromboplastin is used in the test, but “correcting” INR with a fresh frozen plasma infusion does not affect thrombin production and worsens portal hypertension. Using cryoprecipitate to replenish fibrinogen has less impact on portal hypertension. “Global tests of clot formation, such as rotational thromboelastometry (ROTEM), thromboelastography (TEG), sonorheometry, and thrombin generation may eventually have a role in the evaluation of clotting in patients with cirrhosis but currently lack validated target levels,” the experts wrote.
They advised clinicians to limit the use of blood products (such as fresh frozen plasma and pooled platelet transfusions) because of cost and the risk of exacerbated portal hypertension, infection, and immunologic complications. For severe anemia and uremia, red blood cell transfusion (250 mL) can be considered. Platelet-rich plasma from one donor is less immunologically risky than a pooled platelet transfusion. Thrombopoietin agonists are “a good alternative” to platelet transfusion but require about 10 days for response. Alternative prothrombotic therapies include oral thrombopoietin receptor agonists (avatrombopag and lusutrombopag) to boost platelet count before an invasive procedure, antifibrinolytic therapy (aminocaproic acid and tranexamic acid) for persistent bleeding from mucosal oozing or puncture wounds. Desmopressin should only be considered for patients with comorbid renal failure.
For anticoagulation, the practice update recommends considering systemic heparin infusion for cirrhotic patients with symptomatic deep venous thrombosis (DVT) or portal vein thrombosis (PVT). However, the anti–factor Xa assay will not reliably monitor response if patients have low liver-derived antithrombin III (heparin cofactor). “With newly diagnosed PVT, the decision to intervene with directed therapy rests on the extent of the thrombosis, presence or absence of attributable symptoms, and the risk of bleeding and falls,” the experts stated.
Six-month follow-up imaging is recommended to assess anticoagulation efficacy. More frequent imaging can be considered for PVT patients considered at high risk for therapeutic anticoagulation. If clots do not fully resolve after 6 months of treatment, options including extending therapy with the same agent, switching to a different anticoagulant class, or receiving transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS). “The role for TIPS in PVT is evolving and may address complications like portal hypertensive bleeding, medically refractory clot, and the need for repeated banding after variceal bleeding,” the experts noted.
Prophylaxis of DVT is recommended for all hospitalized patients with cirrhosis. Vitamin K antagonists and direct-acting oral anticoagulants (dabigatran, apixaban, rivaroxaban, and edoxaban) are alternatives to heparin for anticoagulation of cirrhotic patients with either PVT and DVT, the experts wrote. However, DOACs are not recommended for most Child-Pugh B patients or for any Child-Pugh C patients.
No funding sources or conflicts of interest were reported.
SOURCE: O’Leary JG et al. Gastroenterology. 2019. .