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      Nebulized anticoagulants for acute lung injury - a systematic review of preclinical and clinical investigations

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          Data from interventional trials of systemic anticoagulation for sepsis inconsistently suggest beneficial effects in case of acute lung injury (ALI). Severe systemic bleeding due to anticoagulation may have offset the possible positive effects. Nebulization of anticoagulants may allow for improved local biological availability and as such may improve efficacy in the lungs and lower the risk of systemic bleeding complications.


          We performed a systematic review of preclinical studies and clinical trials investigating the efficacy and safety of nebulized anticoagulants in the setting of lung injury in animals and ALI in humans.


          The efficacy of nebulized activated protein C, antithrombin, heparin and danaparoid has been tested in diverse animal models of direct (for example, pneumonia-, intra-pulmonary lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-, and smoke inhalation-induced lung injury) and indirect lung injury (for example, intravenous LPS- and trauma-induced lung injury). Nebulized anticoagulants were found to have the potential to attenuate pulmonary coagulopathy and frequently also inflammation. Notably, nebulized danaparoid and heparin but not activated protein C and antithrombin, were found to have an effect on systemic coagulation. Clinical trials of nebulized anticoagulants are very limited. Nebulized heparin was found to improve survival of patients with smoke inhalation-induced ALI. In a trial of critically ill patients who needed mechanical ventilation for longer than two days, nebulized heparin was associated with a higher number of ventilator-free days. In line with results from preclinical studies, nebulization of heparin was found to have an effect on systemic coagulation, but without causing systemic bleedings.


          Local anticoagulant therapy through nebulization of anticoagulants attenuates pulmonary coagulopathy and frequently also inflammation in preclinical studies of lung injury. Recent human trials suggest nebulized heparin for ALI to be beneficial and safe, but data are very limited.

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          Most cited references 50

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          Disseminated intravascular coagulation.

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            Caring for the critically ill patient. High-dose antithrombin III in severe sepsis: a randomized controlled trial.

            Activation of the coagulation system and depletion of endogenous anticoagulants are frequently found in patients with severe sepsis and septic shock. Diffuse microthrombus formation may induce organ dysfunction and lead to excess mortality in septic shock. Antithrombin III may provide protection from multiorgan failure and improve survival in severely ill patients. To determine if high-dose antithrombin III (administered within 6 hours of onset) would provide a survival advantage in patients with severe sepsis and septic shock. Double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter phase 3 clinical trial in patients with severe sepsis (the KyberSept Trial) was conducted from March 1997 through January 2000. A total of 2314 adult patients were randomized into 2 equal groups of 1157 to receive either intravenous antithrombin III (30 000 IU in total over 4 days) or a placebo (1% human albumin). All-cause mortality 28 days after initiation of study medication. Overall mortality at 28 days in the antithrombin III treatment group was 38.9% vs 38.7% in the placebo group (P =.94). Secondary end points, including mortality at 56 and 90 days and survival time in the intensive care unit, did not differ between the antithrombin III and placebo groups. In the subgroup of patients who did not receive concomitant heparin during the 4-day treatment phase (n = 698), the 28-day mortality was nonsignificantly lower in the antithrombin III group (37.8%) than in the placebo group (43.6%) (P =.08). This trend became significant after 90 days (n = 686; 44.9% for antithrombin III group vs 52.5% for placebo group; P =.03). In patients receiving antithrombin III and concomitant heparin, a significantly increased bleeding incidence was observed (23.8% for antithrombin III group vs 13.5% for placebo group; P<.001). High-dose antithrombin III therapy had no effect on 28-day all-cause mortality in adult patients with severe sepsis and septic shock when administered within 6 hours after the onset. High-dose antithrombin III was associated with an increased risk of hemorrhage when administered with heparin. There was some evidence to suggest a treatment benefit of antithrombin III in the subgroup of patients not receiving concomitant heparin.
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              Alveolar fibrin formation caused by enhanced procoagulant and depressed fibrinolytic capacities in severe pneumonia. Comparison with the acute respiratory distress syndrome.

              Changes in the alveolar hemostatic balance in severe pneumonia were compared with those in the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Analysis was performed in bronchoalveolar lavage fluids (BALF) of patients with ARDS triggered by nonpulmonary underlying events in the absence of lung infection (ARDS; n = 25), pneumonia demanding mechanical ventilation (PNEU-vent; n = 114), spontaneously breathing patients with pneumonia (PNEU-spon; n = 40), and ARDS in combination with lung infection (ARDS+PNEU; n = 43); comparison with healthy control subjects (n = 35) was performed. In all groups of patients, BALF total procoagulant activity was increased by nearly two orders of magnitude, being largely attributable to the tissue factor pathway of coagulation. Concomitantly, markedly reduced overall fibrinolytic capacity (fibrin plate assay) was noted in the lavage fluids of all patients. BALF levels of urokinase-type plasminogen activator were significantly reduced throughout, whereas the lavage concentrations of tissue-type plasminogen activator did not differ from those in control subjects. In addition, markedly enhanced levels of plasminogen activator- inhibitor I and alpha(2)-antiplasmin were noted in ARDS, ARDS+PNEU, and PNEU-vent, but not in PNEU-spon. In all groups of patients, the changes in the lavage enzymatic activities were paralleled by manifold increased BALF concentrations of fibrinopeptide A and D-dimer, reflecting in vivo coagulation processes. Within the overall number of patients with pneumonia, changes in the alveolar hemostatic balance were more prominent in alveolar and interstitial pneumonia than in bronchopneumonia. Acute inflammatory lung injury, whether triggered by nonpulmonary systemic events or primary lung infection, is thus consistently characterized by both enhanced procoagulant and depressed fibrinolytic activities in the alveolar lining layer, with the appearance of fibrin formation in this compartment. Profile and extent of changes in severe pneumonia demanding respirator therapy are virtually identical to those in ARDS, whereas somewhat less prominent alterations of the alveolar hemostatic balance are noted in spontaneously breathing patients with pneumonia.

                Author and article information

                Crit Care
                Crit Care
                Critical Care
                BioMed Central
                30 April 2012
                : 16
                : 2
                : R70
                [1 ]Department of Intensive Care Medicine and Laboratory of Experimental Intensive Care and Anesthesiology (L·E·I·C·A), Academic Medical Center, Meibergdreef 9, Amsterdam, 1105 AZ, The Netherlands
                [2 ]Department of Intensive Care, St Vincent's Hospital, 41 Victoria Parade, Fitzroy, Melbourne, VIC 3065, Australia
                [3 ]Department of Internal Medicine, Academic Medical Center, Meibergdreef 9, Amsterdam, 1105 AZ, The Netherlands
                Copyright ©2012 Tuinman et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


                Emergency medicine & Trauma


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