Transfusion requirements are correlated with the degree of proteolysis of von Willebrand factor during orthotopic liver transplantation

A. Lattuada, P. M. Mannucci, C. Chen, C. Legnani, G. Palareti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) excessive bleeding is the main cause of death and graft failure. The acute bleeding tendency that accompanies OLT, particularly during the anhepatic period and after reperfusion of the graft, is due to the depletion or functional abnormalities of several hemostasis components caused by the enhanced activity of enzymes such as plasmin, trypsin and leukocyte proteases. We surmised that enhanced proteolysis might also clause abnormalities of von Willebrand factor (vWF), and that these abnormalities are implicated in the bleeding tendency that develops during OLT. Therefore, the pattern of vWF proteolysis was studied with 16 patients with chronic liver disease, in serial blood samples obtained before OLT, during the anhepatic stage, after graft reperfusion and at the end of the surgical procedure. vWF became markedly degraded during the anhepatic and reperfusion stages, as shown by the partial loss of high molecular weight multimers, the relative decrease of the intact 225 kD subunit and the increase of the native proteolytic fragments of 176 and 140 kD. Novel proteolytic fragments also became detectable. Using monoclonal antibody epitope mapping, it could be demonstrated that some of the proteolytic fragments corresponded in apparent molecular mass to those produced in vitro by incubating purified vWF with plasmin or elastase, but other fragments could not be attributed to these proteases. During the anhepatic and reperfusion stages there was a significant correlation between the degree of vWF degradation and the total amount of blood components transfused to replace blood losses. To evaluate whether or not vWF degradation could be controlled by the administration of a broad-spectrum protease inhibitor such as aprotinin, 5 patients were given a bolus dose of 500,000 U before surgery followed by 100,000 U/h during surgery, 5 were given a 2,000,000 U bolus followed by 500,000 U/h, and no aprotinin was given to the remaining 6 patients. There were no differences in the patterns or degrees of vWF degradation between patients treated with aprotinin or not. In conclusion, there is a marked degradation of a key hemostasis protein during OLT. These alterations may be of clinical significance, because they are correlated with the transfusion requirements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-819
Number of pages7
JournalThrombosis and Haemostasis
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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