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Combination of thrombin-antithrombin complex, plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, and protein C activity for early identification of severe coagulopathy in initial phase of sepsis: a prospective observational study

Kansuke Koyama12*, Seiji Madoiwa12*, Shin Nunomiya1, Toshitaka Koinuma1, Masahiko Wada1, Asuka Sakata2, Tsukasa Ohmori2, Jun Mimuro2 and Yoichi Sakata2

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Intensive Care, Department of Anesthesiology & Intensive Care Medicine, Jichi Medical University School of Medicine, 3311-1 Yakushiji, Shimotsuke, Tochigi 329-0498, Japan

2 Research Divisions of Cell and Molecular Medicine, Center of Molecular Medicine, Jichi Medical University School of Medicine, 3311-1 Yakushiji, Shimotsuke, Tochigi 329-0498, Japan

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Critical Care 2014, 18:R13  doi:10.1186/cc13190

Published: 13 January 2014



Current criteria for early diagnosis of coagulopathy in sepsis are limited. We postulated that coagulopathy is already complicated with sepsis in the initial phase, and severe coagulopathy or disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) becomes overt after progressive consumption of platelet and coagulation factors. To determine early diagnostic markers for severe coagulopathy, we evaluated plasma biomarkers for association with subsequent development of overt DIC in patients with sepsis.


A single-center, prospective observational study was conducted in an adult ICU at a university hospital. Plasma samples were obtained from patients with sepsis at ICU admission. Fourteen biomarkers including global markers (platelet count, prothrombin time, activated partial thromboplastin time, fibrinogen and fibrin degradation product (FDP)); markers of thrombin generation (thrombin-antithrombin complex (TAT) and soluble fibrin); markers of anticoagulants (protein C (PC) and antithrombin); markers of fibrinolysis (plasminogen, α2-plasmin inhibitor (PI), plasmin-α2-PI complex, and plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI)-1); and a marker of endothelial activation (soluble E-selectin) were assayed. Patients who had overt DIC at baseline were excluded, and the remaining patients were followed for development of overt DIC in 5 days, and for mortality in 28 days.


A total of 77 patients were enrolled, and 37 developed overt DIC within the following 5 days. Most patients demonstrated hemostatic abnormalities at baseline with 98.7% TAT, 97.4% FDP and 88.3% PC. Most hemostatic biomarkers at baseline were significantly associated with subsequent development of overt DIC. Notably, TAT, PAI-1 and PC discriminated well between patients with and without developing overt DIC (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC), 0.77 (95% confidence interval, 0.64 to 0.86); 0.87 (0.78 to 0.92); 0.85 (0.76 to 0.91), respectively), and using the three together, significantly improved the AUROC up to 0.95 (vs. TAT, PAI-1, and PC). Among the significant diagnostic markers for overt DIC, TAT and PAI-1 were also good predictors of 28-day mortality (AUROC, 0.77 and 0.81, respectively).


Severe coagulation and fibrinolytic abnormalities on ICU admission were associated with subsequent development of overt DIC. A single measurement of TAT, PAI-1, and PC activity could identify patients with ongoing severe coagulopathy, early in the course of sepsis.