Objectives. We sought to determine whether brief, profound inhibition of thrombin or prothrombin activation by factor Xa limits neointimal formation and stenosis after arterial injury. Background. Thrombin has been implicated as a mediator of neointimal formation, but adjunctive administration of anticoagulant agents has not proven effective to decrease restenosis in patients undergoing coronary angioplasty. Methods. We infused recombinant desulfatohirudin (r-hirudin, bolus of 2 mg/kg body weight followed by 2 mg/kg per h, n = 9), heparin (100 U/kg per h, n = 6) or recombinant tick anticoagulant peptide (rTAP, 1-mg/kg bolus followed by 3 mg/kg per h, n = 5), a specific inhibitor of factor Xa, intravenously, beginning 15 min before and for up to 3 h after repetitive balloon hyperinflations sufficient to disrupt the internal elastic lamina in a carotid artery of minipigs with hypercholesterolemia induced by feeding them an atherogenic diet. Results. Partial thromboplastin time was increased six- to sevenfold over baseline levels at the end of the infusions of the anticoagulant agents. Lumen stenosis measured histologically 4 weeks after balloon-induced carotid injury was 29 ± 16% (mean ± SEM) in r-hirudin-treated, 52 ± 19% in rTAP-treated and 76 ± 18% in heparin-treated pigs (p <0.02 for r-hirudin vs. heparin treatment). Conclusions. The marked reduction of stenosis in r-hirudin-treated animals indicates that thrombin plays a major role in neointimal formation after balloon-induced arterial injury. A relatively brief interval of profound, direct inhibition of thrombin may be particularly effective to attenuate restenosis after balloon angioplasty.
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