Semin Thromb Hemost 2015; 41(01): 009-015
DOI: 10.1055/s-0034-1398376
Thieme Medical Publishers 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA.

Coagulation in Patients with Severe Sepsis

Marcel Levi
1  Department of Vascular Medicine, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Tom van der Poll
2  Center for Experimental and Molecular Medicine, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
› Author Affiliations
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Publication History

Publication Date:
15 January 2015 (online)


In the majority of patients with severe sepsis, systemic activation of coagulation is present. Increasing evidence points to an extensive cross-talk between coagulation and inflammation that may play an important role in the pathogenesis of sepsis. Inflammation not only leads to activation of coagulation, but coagulation also considerably affects inflammatory activity. Molecular pathways that contribute to inflammation-induced activation of coagulation have been precisely identified. Proinflammatory cytokines and other mediators are capable of activating the coagulation system and downregulating important physiological anticoagulant pathways. Activation of the coagulation system and ensuing thrombin generation is dependent on expression of tissue factor on activated mononuclear cells and endothelial cells, and is insufficiently counteracted by TFPI. Simultaneously, endothelial-bound anticoagulant mechanism, in particular the protein C system, is shutoff by proinflammatory cytokines. In addition, fibrin removal is severely inhibited, because of inactivation of the fibrinolytic system, caused by an upregulation of its main inhibitor, plasminogen activator inhibitor type 1 (PAI-1). Increased fibrin formation and impaired removal lead to (micro)vascular thrombosis, which may result in tissue ischemia and subsequent organ damage. The cornerstone of the management of coagulation in sepsis is the specific and vigorous treatment of the underlying disorder. Strategies aimed at the inhibition of coagulation activation may theoretically be justified and have been found beneficial in experimental and initial clinical studies. Heparin may be an effective anticoagulant approach and alternative strategies comprise restoration of physiological anticoagulant pathways.