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Crit Care Med. 2000 Aug;28(8):2881-6.

Influence of heparin and hirudin on endothelial binding of antithrombin in experimental thrombinemia.

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Klinik für Anästhesiologie und operative Intensivmedizin, Berlin, Germany.



During the last decade, experimental and clinical evidence has accumulated that antithrombin (AT) exerts anti-inflammatory effects when given in high doses. Meanwhile, AT substitution has been shown to significantly increase prostacyclin release. However, the link between endothelial AT binding and anti-inflammatory AT effects remains to be established in vivo, although heparin has been shown to counteract anti-inflammatory AT effects. We hypothesized that the administration of heparin in endotoxin-challenged rats would decrease endothelial AT binding and systemic prostacyclin concentrations.


Prospective, randomized, controlled experimental in vivo study.


Research laboratory of a university hospital.


Fifty-six Wistar rats.


Baseline values of coagulation variables were measured in six animals. Forty of 50 Wistar rats in the study groups were given endotoxin (50 mg x kg(-1) iv) and were treated with saline (group LPS), AT (15 units x kg(-1) x hr(-1)) (LPS+AT), AT and heparin (80 IU x kg(-1) x hr(-1)), or AT and hirudin (0.12 mg x kg(-1) x hr(-1)); the other 10 received saline instead of endotoxin and were treated with AT alone. Before endotoxin application, a tracheostomy was performed, and venous and arterial catheters were inserted for blood sampling and infusion.


Intravital endothelial AT binding was studied by using fluorescence isothiocyanate-marked antibodies during intravital microscopy of intestinal submucosal venules. Systemic prostacyclin, thrombin-AT complex, and fibrinogen concentrations were measured after 4 hrs. Intergroup differences were tested by Kruskal-Wallis analysis of variance on ranks.


AT and AT + heparin were equally effective in inhibiting systemic procoagulant turnover as reflected by fibrinogen concentrations. Only the administration of AT + hirudin significantly prevented fibrinogen consumption (p < .05). In contrast with all other treatments, the administration of heparin significantly reduced intravital endothelial AT binding (p < .05). However, prostacyclin concentrations were similarly increased in all endotoxin-challenged study groups irrespective of the anticoagulatory treatment.


There is evidence that heparin in contrast with hirudin prevents AT from being bound to the endothelial cell surface in this experimental model. Under low-dose AT substitution, systemic prostacyclin concentrations do not depend on whether heparin or hirudin is used for thrombin inhibition. These results support the view that heparin may counteract anti-inflammatory AT effects by keeping AT away from its endothelial binding sites; however, the results question the view that decreased endothelial prostacyclin release is solely responsible.

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