Evidence for complement activation by protamine-heparin interaction after cardiopulmonary bypass

N. C. Cavarocchi, H. V. Schaff, T. A. Orszulak, H. A. Homburger, W. A. Schnell, J. R. Pluth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


Complement activation by alternate pathway has been implicated in the pathophysiology of cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB), and laboratory studies suggest that the complement cascade may be activated by the protamine-heparin complex. To determine if the administration of protamine to patients receiving heparin activates complement, we studied 100 patients undergoing CPB by assaying levels of C3a and C4a (classic pathway) at regular intervals before and after protamine administration. In group I (90 patients), protamine was given at the usual interval (median 5 minutes) after CPB. In group II (10 patients), protamine was withheld until skin closure (median 45 minutes) after CPB. Results demonstrated that C4a was not activated during CPB in either group. After CPB, the C4a level in group I was 459 ng/dl and increased to 1047 ng/dl 10 minutes after protamine administration (p<0.001). In group II, the C4a level was 484 ng/dl at the end of CPB and 354 ng/dl 15 minutes later, which corresponds to the value immediately after protamine administration in group I. The delayed administration of protamine in group II caused a significant increase in C4a at the time of skin closure (1090 ng/dl; p<0.001). Corresponding results from C3a analysis before and after protamine administration confirmed the activation of complement cascade. Our study provides the first clinical evidence that the protamine-heparin complex activates complement via the classic ((C4a) pathway. The hemodynamic effects of protamine after CPB may be related to complement activation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-531
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


Dive into the research topics of 'Evidence for complement activation by protamine-heparin interaction after cardiopulmonary bypass'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this