High incidence of antibodies to protamine and protamine/heparin complexes in patients undergoing cardiopulmonary bypass.
Protamine is routinely used to reverse heparin anticoagulation during cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB). Heparin interacts with protamine to form ultralarge complexes that are immunogenic in mice. We hypothesized that patients exposed to protamine and heparin during CPB will develop antibodies (Abs) to protamine/heparin (PRT/H) complexes that are capable of platelet activation. Specimens from a recently completed prospective clinical trial (HIT [for heparin-induced thrombocytopenia] 5801 study; n = 500) of CPB patients were examined for PRT/H Abs at baseline, at time of hospital discharge (between days 3 through 7), and 30 days after CPB. PRT/H antibody features were characterized and correlated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes. We found a high incidence of PRT/H antibody formation (29%) in patients undergoing cardiac surgery. PRT/H Abs were of high titer (mean titer 1:14,744), showed heparin-dependent binding, and activated platelets in the presence of protamine. PRT/H Abs showed no cross-reactivity to platelet factor 4/heparin complexes, but were cross-reactive with protamine-containing insulin preparations. In the absence of circulating antigen at day 30, there were no complications of thrombocytopenia, thrombotic events, or long-term cardiovascular events. These studies show that Abs to PRT/H occur commonly after cardiac bypass surgery, share a number of serologic features with HIT Abs, including platelet activation, and may pose health risks to patients requiring drug reexposure.
Lee, GM; Welsby, IJ; Phillips-Bute, B; Ortel, TL; Arepally, GM
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