Baseline activated coagulation time should be measured after surgical incision

G. P. Gravlee, C. L. Whitaker, L. J. Mark, A. T. Rogers, R. L. Royster, G. A. Harrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The activated coagulation time (ACT) is widely used to guide heparin and protamine dosing during cardiac surgery. A common protocol involves establishing a baseline ACT before administering heparin, then using this ACT as a target value for assessing the adequacy of heparin neutralization after cardiopulmonary bypass. Results vary in previous comparisons of baseline ACT to postprotamine ACT, with some showing postprotamine ACT significantly below baseline values. The present study examined ACTs at three possible baseline intervals in 68 patients at two institutions: (a) before anesthetic induction; (b) after anesthetic induction; and (c) after sternotomy. Baseline ACT decreased significantly with anesthesia and surgery. The poststernotomy baseline ACT best matched the postprotamine ACT. It appears likely that surgery induces a thromboplastic response that decreases ACT. Establishing baseline ACT before anesthetic induction would predispose to false diagnoses of adequate protamine neutralization after cardiopulmonary bypass, because ACT is relatively insensitive to low concentrations of unneutralized heparin. Baseline ACTs should therefore be measured after surgical incision.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-553
Number of pages5
JournalAnesthesia and analgesia
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood, clotting - activated coagulation time (ACT)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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