Rich, J. D., Maraganore, J. M., Young, E., Lidon, R. M., Adelman, B., Bourdon, P., Charenkavanich, S., Hirsh, J., Theroux, P., Cannon, C. P. Heparin resistance in acute coronary syndromes J Thromb Thrombolysis. 2007;23(2):93-100.

BACKGROUND: Maintaining a therapeutic level of anticoagulation with unfractionated heparin remains a major challenge for clinicians because of the wide variability of patient responses, which may be explained by variable binding of heparin to plasma proteins. Direct thrombin inhibitors may offer an advantage in more predictable anticoagulation.

METHODS: Plasma samples from normal volunteers, stable coronary artery disease (CAD) patients, unstable angina patients, and acute myocardial infarction patients were obtained. A fixed concentration of heparin (.13 U/ml) or bivalirudin (1.6 microg/ml) was added to plasma from each of the four study groups and measurement of the APTT was performed. In addition, a pool of plasma from patients with acute MI was diluted in pooled normal plasma, and heparin or bivalirudin was added to the plasma preparation and APTT measurements performed.

RESULTS: In heparin-treated plasma samples, mean APTT values were 443 +/- 137% baseline for normal volunteers, 347 +/- 116% for patients with stable CAD, 290 +/- 124% for patients with unstable angina (p < 0.05), and 230 +/- 120% for patients with acute MI (p < 0.05). APTT did not differ across the four groups treated with bivalirudin. There was a much higher degree of variability in APTT values in heparin treated controls (272%-671%, SD approximately 30%) compared to bivalirudin treated controls (284-499%, SD approximately 12%). When the "acute MI pool" was diluted in pooled normal plasma at fixed concentrations of either bivalirudin (1.6 mug/ml) or heparin (0.13 U/ml), there was a sharp decrease in heparin activity from 407% baseline (at 0% acute MI pool) to values as low as 126% baseline (at 100% acute MI pool). A markedly different pattern was seen in the bivalirudin treated samples, where a trend towards decreased APTT values was seen only at the 100% acute MI pool.

CONCLUSION: Both heparin variability and resistance may limit optimal antithrombotic therapy with heparin in patients with ACS and constitutes a potential advantage of direct antithrombin blockade with bivalirudin.