What causes thrombus formation among blood-contacting medical devices and what can be done to prevent thrombosis?
Thrombus formation is a common cause of failure among blood-contacting medical devices.1 Blood is composed of cells and plasma. Plasma contains distinct proteins, and rapid adsorption of these plasma proteins onto non-biologic surfaces is thought to be the initiating event in thrombus formation. Protein adsorption on non-biologic surfaces promotes adhesion and activation of platelets, leukocytes, and the coagulation cascade leading to thrombus formation.
Efforts to prevent thrombus formation among blood-contacting medical devices such as Impella heart pump include the use of surface coatings on the device to reduce protein adsorption and administration of anticoagulant medications such as heparin and direct thrombin inhibitors.
Anticoagulation refers to the use of medications such as heparin to prevent or decrease the risk of thrombus formation. The Impella device consists of an intravascular microaxial blood pump and cannula through which blood is aspirated from the left ventricle and expelled into the ascending aorta. Due to the potential thrombotic complications during blood movement through the Impella device, adequate anticoagulation is required. As blood flows into the Impella catheter, a purge solution runs in the opposite direction to the blood to create a pressure barrier that prevents blood from entering the Impella motor.2 The purge solution includes heparin to prevent thrombus formation and protein adherence if blood enters the motor.
The Impella devices require a specific purge pressure range (300-1100 mm Hg) for optimal pump flow and a specific systemic activated clotting time (ACT) anticoagulation range (160-180 seconds) for optimal and sustained function. Studies report aPTT targets ranging between 55 and 80 seconds with optimal outcomes.3-6
The Impella devices have built-in pressure sensors, through which the device automatically sets and adjusts the purge flow anywhere between 2 and 30 mL/hr to maintain the adequate purge pressure range. In some patients, such as those with a low body surface area (BSA), the target anticoagulation range may be achieved via heparin in the Impella purge solution alone. In most patients, concurrent systemic (non-purge) heparin is used to achieve target anticoagulation. The total dosing of heparin while being administered both systemically and through the purge solution is calculated by adding the rate of heparin in the Impella purge solution and the systemic heparin infusion. The Impella heparin calculator is available at https://www.protectedpci.com/heparin-rate-calculator/.
The recommended purge solution with Impella devices is 50 IU/mL of unfractionated heparin with 5% dextrose (diluent) in water. It is important to note that saline solution should not be used in the purge solution. The dextrose concentration of the purge solution determines the viscosity and flow rate of the purge fluid. Studies suggest that lower dextrose concentrations, such as 5%, are less viscous and flow quickly through the purge system, thereby increasing the amount of heparin delivered.2,7 On the other hand, higher dextrose concentrations, such as 20%, are more viscous and result in a slower purge flow rate and less heparin infusion. Thus, it is suggested that higher dextrose concentrations can be used in patients who may have higher levels of ACT, aPTT, or are anticipated to have lower anticoagulation need, such as those with lower BSA.
Heparin is the only anticoagulant approved by the FDA for use in the Impella purge solution. If a patient is intolerant to heparin, due to heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT), systemic delivery of an alternative anticoagulant such as direct thrombin inhibitors (DTIs) should be considered.8 The dosage and details of the use of DTIs for anticoagulation are available for licensed health care practitioners are at https://www.abiomed.us/npi-search/.
Impella devices have not been tested with DTIs in the purge solution. Hence, the addition of DTIs such as argatroban or bivalirudin to the Impella purge solution is not recommended. Additional medical information on the use of DTI with Impella devices can be requested at https://www.abiomed.us/npi-search/ or by reaching out to medical affairs at Abiomed, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Jaffer IH, Fredenburgh J C, Hirsh J, Weitz JI. Medical device-induced thrombosis: what causes it and how can we prevent it? J. Thromb. Haemost 2015;13: S72-S81.
- Succar L, Sulaica EM, Donahue KR, Wanat MA. Management of Anticoagulation with Impella® Percutaneous Ventricular Assist Devices and Review of New Literature. J Thromb Thrombolysis. 2019;48:284-291.
- Jennings DL, Nemerovski CW, Kalus JS. Effective anticoagulation for a percutaneous ventricular assist device using a heparin-based purge solution. Ann Pharmacother 2013; 47:1364–1367.
- Burzotta F, Trani C, Doshi SN et al. Impella ventricular support in clinical practice: collaborative viewpoint from a European expert user group. Int J Cardiol 2015;201:684–691.
- Jennings DL, Nemerovski CW, Khandelwal A. Extended use of a percutaneous left-ventricular assist device without a heparin-based purge solution. Am J Health-Syst Pharm 2010; 67:1825–1828.
- Seyfarth M, Sibbing D, Bauer I et al. A randomized clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a percutaneous left ventricular assist device versus intraaortic balloon pumping for treatment of cardiogenic shock caused by myocardial infarction. J Am Coll Cardiol 2008; 52:1584–1588.
- Dietrich JN, Kazmi H. Bleeding Risks in Patients on Percutaneous Ventricular Assist Devices Receiving Two Different Dextrose Concentrations of Heparinized Purge Solution: A Case Series. J Pharm Pract. 2019;32:464-469.
- Burzotta F, Trani C, Doshi SN, et al. Impella ventricular support in clinical practice: Collaborative viewpoint from a European expert user group. Int J Cardiol. 2015;201:684-691.