The Developing Balance of Thrombosis and Hemorrhage in Pediatric Surgery: Clinical Implications of Age-Related Changes in Hemostasis

Clin Appl Thromb Hemost. 2020 Jan-Dec;26:1076029620929092

We review the current understanding of the development and function of the hemostatic system, including the complex and overlapping interactions of coagulation proteins, platelets, fibrinolysis, and immune mediators from the neonatal period through early childhood and to young adulthood.

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Bleeding and thrombosis in critically ill infants and children is a vexing clinical problem. Despite the relatively low incidence of bleeding and thrombosis in the overall pediatric population relative to adults, these critically ill children face unique challenges to hemostasis due to extreme physiologic derangements, exposure of blood to foreign surfaces and membranes, and major vascular endothelial injury or disruption. Caring for pediatric patients on extracorporeal support, recovering from solid organ transplant or invasive surgery, and after major trauma is often complicated by major bleeding or clotting events. As our ability to care for the youngest and sickest of these children increases, the gaps in our understanding of the clinical implications of developmental hemostasis have become increasingly important. We review the current understanding of the development and function of the hemostatic system, including the complex and overlapping interactions of coagulation proteins, platelets, fibrinolysis, and immune mediators from the neonatal period through early childhood and to young adulthood. We then examine scenarios in which our ability to effectively measure and treat coagulation derangements in pediatric patients is limited. In these clinical situations, adult therapies are often extrapolated for use in children without taking age-related differences in pediatric hemostasis into account, leaving clinicians confused and impacting patient outcomes. We discuss the limitations of current coagulation testing in pediatric patients before turning to emerging ideas in the measurement and management of pediatric bleeding and thrombosis. Finally, we highlight opportunities for future research which take into account this developing balance of bleeding and thrombosis in our youngest patients.