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Gene variants predict bleeding after heart surgery

DURHAM, N.C. Duke University Medical Center researchers have found that the presence of specific variants of genes that control clotting and the contractility, or "tone," of blood vessels can double the ability of physicians to predict those heart surgery patients at greatest risk of bleeding after surgery.

The issue of post-operative bleeding is important, the researchers said, because patients who suffer such episodes have increased rates of additional medical problems and even death. Furthermore, decreasing the rate of postoperative bleeding can have important implications for the health care system, they continued, since an estimated 20 percent of the nation's blood supply is used to treat these patients.

"While larger studies are needed to investigate the genetic associations we have uncovered, if our observations are confirmed, genetic screening could become an important part of our pre-operative evaluation of heart surgery patients," said Duke anesthesiologist Ian Welsby, M.D., lead author of a study to be published in the June edition of the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis but appearing early on-line.

Currently, physicians base their predictions of who is likely to bleed on such patient characteristics as weight, size and blood count. In their consideration of risk, they also take into account factors that may come into play during the actual surgery, such as the number of vessels being bypassed, the degree of atherosclerotic disease and use of the heart-lung machine to keep blood pumping while surgeons operate on the stopped heart.

"However, these risk factors we use now are poorly predictive of which patients are more likely to bleed," Welsby continued. "Also, these factors are only partially successful in accounting for the striking variability in outcomes among patients undergoing heart surgery."

Within the circulatory system, three main factors control bleeding or clotting blood vessel constriction, platel
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Contact: Richard Merritt
Merri006@mc.duke.edu
919-684-4148
Duke University Medical Center
4-May-2005


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