Clinical outcomes of cardiac surgery patients undergoing therapeutic plasma exchange for heparin-induced thrombocytopenia.

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Background and objectives

Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) is an antibody-mediated condition that leads to thrombocytopenia and possible thrombosis. Patients with HIT who require cardiac surgery pose a challenge as high doses of heparin or heparin alternatives are required to permit cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB). Intraoperative therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) is a valuable adjunct in the management of antibody-mediated syndromes including HIT. The clinical impact of TPE on thromboembolic events, bleeding and mortality after heparin re-exposure is not well established. We hypothesized that TPE with heparin re-exposure will not lead to HIT-related thromboembolic events, bleeding or increased mortality after cardiac surgery with CPB.

Materials and methods

We reviewed 330 patients who received perioperative TPE between September 2012 and September 2017.


Twenty four patients received TPE for HIT before anticipated heparin use for CPB. Most patients were males (79%) scheduled for advanced heart failure therapies. Three patients (12·5%) died within 30 days after surgery but none of the deaths were considered HIT-related. Thromboembolic events (TE) occurred in 3 patients within 7 days of surgery; of those, two were possibly HIT-related.


Therapeutic plasma exchange with heparin re-exposure was not strongly associated with HIT-related thrombosis/death after cardiac surgery with CPB.





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Publication Info

Moreno-Duarte, Ingrid, Mary Cooter, Oluwatoyosi A Onwuemene, Kamrouz Ghadimi and Ian J Welsby (2021). Clinical outcomes of cardiac surgery patients undergoing therapeutic plasma exchange for heparin-induced thrombocytopenia. Vox sanguinis, 116(2). pp. 217–224. 10.1111/vox.13008 Retrieved from

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Oluwatoyosi Adefunke Onwuemene

Associate Professor of Medicine

Kamrouz Ghadimi

Associate Professor of Anesthesiology

Dr. Ghadimi is a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist, intensivist (ICU doctor), researcher, educator, and director of the clinical research unit in the Department of Anesthesiology at Duke Health. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts, book chapters, online reviews, and editorials. His expertise involves the perioperative and intensive care management of patients undergoing cardiac and noncardiac surgery, with a special focus on the treatment of bleeding and inflammation related to shock and mechanical circulatory support and on the modification of pulmonary circulation to optimize end-organ blood flow.

Clinical Education
Dr. Ghadimi is a medical school graduate of Boston University School of Medicine, completed his internship in general surgery at the University of California Irvine Medical Center and Long Beach Veterans Affairs Medical Center and completed clinical anesthesiology residency at the Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He completed advanced clinical fellowship specialization in adult Critical Care Medicine (surgical focus) and Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

Dr. Ghadimi's expertise and instruction spans across the cardiothoracic operating rooms and cardiothoracic surgical ICU environments. His expertise includes perioperative hemostasis & thrombosis, critical care of the heart or lung transplant recipient, and critical care for the patient on mechanical circulatory support, which may include extracorporeal life support (ECMO) or ventricular assist devices/systems.

Research Education
Dr. Ghadimi is a clinical and translational researcher and holds a Master in Health Sciences (M.H.Sc.) from the Duke-NIH Clinical Research Training Program. 


Ian James Welsby

Professor of Anesthesiology

As a practicing cardiothoracic anesthesiologist, I have contributed to the better understanding of the management and of perioperative thrombosis (particularly HIT). This has been as a Duke site PI for the Rare Thrombotic Diseases Consortium led by Dr T.L Ortel and a clinical collaborator with the basic and translational science approach to HIT led by Dr G Arepally. I have also championed novel approaches to dealing with perioperative HIT such as plasmaperesis.

Similarly, I have been a local leader in establishing management of transfusion approaches to major cardiac surgery including the novel introduction of autologous plateletpheresis to limit exposure to allogeneic platelet transfusions in this highly transfused population, identifying the transfusion requirements during thoracic aortic reconstruction and promoting use of a lower dose of rFVIIa use in this population, changing established clinical practice.

My research interests focus on perioperative transfusion and hematology concerns. Recently, Dr Kor (Mayo Clinic) and I received a multiple PI R-01 award to evaluate point-of-care/bedside washing of packed red blood cells to reduce perioperative lung injury. This novel repurposing of commonly available “cell-saver” technology is, for most surgical cases, the only practical means of delivering a washed product, and promises to be a critical advancement in perioperative transfusion medicine. I also have a longstanding interest in the rejuvenation of RBCs to normalize oxygen delivery capacity of transfused RBCs. Such a development will be of tremendous importance to transfusion practice, particularly for highly transfused populations and with current threats to blood banking inventory. 

In summary, I have dedicated my research career to improving the outcome of patients undergoing cardiothoracic surgery, understanding perioperative coagulopathy, and optimizing transfusion practice. 

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