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Accumulations of von Willebrand Factor Within ECMO Oxygenators: Potential Indicator of Coagulation Abnormalities in Critically Ill Patients?

Artif Organs. 2019 Jun 13. [Epub ahead of print]

Clot formation within membrane oxygenators (MOs) remains a critical problem during extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).

Abstract

Clot formation within membrane oxygenators (MOs) remains a critical problem during extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). The composition of the clots—in particular, the presence of von Willebrand factor (vWF)—may be an indicator for prevalent nonphysiological flow conditions, foreign body reactions, or coagulation abnormalities in critically ill patients. Mats of interwoven gas exchange fibers from randomly collected MOs (PLS, Maquet, Rastatt, Germany) of 21 patients were stained with antibodies (anti‐vWF and anti‐P‐selectin) and counterstained with 4′,6‐diamidino‐2‐phenylindole. The extent of vWF‐loading was correlated with patient and technical data. While 12 MOs showed low vWF‐loadings, 9 MOs showed high vWF‐loading with highest accumulations close to crossing points of adjacent gas fibers. The presence and the extent of vWF‐fibers/“cobwebs,” leukocytes, platelet–leukocyte aggregates (PLAs), and P‐selectin‐positive platelet aggregates were independent of the extent of vWF‐loading. However, the highly loaded MOs were obtained from patients with a significantly elevated SOFA score, severe thrombocytopenia, and persistent liver dysfunction. The coagulation abnormalities of these critically ill patients may cause an accumulation of the highly thrombogenic and elongated high‐molecular‐weight vWF multimers in the plasma which will be trapped in the MOs during the ECMO therapy.

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