Cyanotic congenital heart disease (CCHD): Focus on hypoxemia, secondary erythrocytosis, and coagulation alterations

Luis M. Zabala, Nina A. Guzzetta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Children with cyanotic congenital heart disease (CCHD) have complex alterations in their whole blood composition and coagulation profile due to long-standing hypoxemia. Secondary erythrocytosis is an associated physiological response intended to increase circulating red blood cells and oxygen carrying capacity. However, this response is frequently offset by an increase in whole blood viscosity that paradoxically reduces blood flow and tissue perfusion. In addition, the accompanying reduction in plasma volume leads to significant deficiencies in multiple coagulation proteins including platelets, fibrinogen and other clotting factors. On the one hand, these patients may suffer from severe hyperviscosity and subclinical 'sludging' in the peripheral vasculature with an increased risk of thrombosis. On the other hand, they are at an increased risk for postoperative hemorrhage due to a complex derangement in their hemostatic profile. Anesthesiologists caring for children with CCHD and secondary erythrocytosis need to understand the pathophysiology of these alterations and be aware of available strategies that lessen the risk of bleeding and/or thrombosis. The aim of this review is to provide an updated analysis of the systemic effects of long-standing hypoxemia in children with primary congenital heart disease with a specific focus on secondary erythrocytosis and hemostasis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)981-989
Number of pages9
JournalPaediatric anaesthesia
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


  • antifibrinolytic
  • blood transfusion
  • coagulation
  • congenital heart disease
  • heparin
  • neonate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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