There is a delicate balance between bleeding and clotting in patients on circuits such as ventricular assist devices or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Traditional coagulation tests, prothrombin time, activated partial thromboplastin time, and anti-factor Xa levels, are used to monitor patients on these devices. However, turnaround times and inability to assess global hemostasis, including platelets and fibrinogen have contributed to a recognition that faster, accurate, and more informative coagulation tests are needed. Activated clotting time is used to monitor heparin in patients on circuits and has the advantages of being a near-patient point-of-care test. However, its utility is limited to heparin monitoring. Viscoelastic tests (thromboelastometry and thromboelastography) are global, whole-blood coagulation tests, and whole-blood platelet aggregometry evaluates platelet function. Ideally, these tests can ensure that patients are within the therapeutic range of their antithrombotic medications, identify patients at risk for hemorrhagic or thrombotic complications, and guide management of acute bleeding complications. This ideal is currently hampered by a lack of studies that delineate clear ranges that are clinically relevant. Future research is needed to better understand the optimal use of point-of-care coagulation testing in patients on extracorporeal circuits and ventricular assist devices.
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