Background: Recent studies have suggested that anticoagulant therapy does not confer a survival benefit overall in sepsis, but might be beneficial in sepsis-associated disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). In particular, those with high Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) scores might be the optimal target for anticoagulant therapy. However, both DIC and SOFA scores require the measurement of multiple markers. The purpose of this study was to explore a minimal marker set for determining coagulopathy at high risk of death in septic patients, wherein histone H3 levels were evaluated as indicators of both organ failure and coagulation activation. Methods: We analyzed correlations among levels of serum histone H3 and other coagulation markers in 85 cases of sepsis using Spearman's rank correlation test. We then compared the utility of histone H3 to that of other coagulation markers in predicting the traditional DIC state or 28-day mortality by receiver-operating characteristics analysis. Finally, we suggested cut-off values for determining coagulopathy with high risk of death, and evaluated their prognostic utility. Results: Serum histone H3 levels significantly correlated with thrombin-antithrombin complex (TAT) levels (Spearman's ρ = 0.46, p < 0.001), and weakly correlated with platelet counts (Spearman's ρ = - 0.26, p < 0.05). Compared to other coagulation markers, histone H3 levels showed better performance in predicting 28-day mortality. When combining serum histone H3 levels with platelet counts, our new scoring system showed a concordance rate of 69% with the traditional four-factor criteria of DIC established by the Japanese Association for Acute Medicine. The 28-day mortality rates of the new and the traditional criteria-positive patients were 43% and 21%, respectively. Those of the new and the traditional criteria-negative patients were 5.7% and 9.4%, respectively. Conclusions: Serum histone H3 levels and platelet counts are potential markers for determining coagulopathy with high risk of death in septic patients. Further studies are needed to clarify the utility of serum histone H3 levels in the diagnostic of coagulopathy/DIC.
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