Tranexamic acid modulates the immune response and reduces postsurgical infection rates

Dominik F. Draxler, Kah Yep, Gryselda Hanafi, Anoushka Winton, Maria Daglas, Heidi Ho, Maithili Sashindranath, Lisa M. Wutzlhofer, Andrew Forbes, Isaac Goncalves, Huyen A. Tran, Sophia Wallace, Magdalena Plebanski, Paul S. Myles, Robert L. Medcalf

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30 Citations (Scopus)


Tranexamic acid (TXA) is an antifibrinolytic agent that blocks plasmin formation. Because plasmin is known to promote inflammatory and immunosuppressive responses, we explored the possibility that plasmin-mediated immunosuppression in patients undergoing cardiac surgery can be directly reversed by TXA and decrease postoperative infection rates. The modulatory effect of TXA on inflammatory cytokine levels and on innate immune cell activation were evaluated with multiplex enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and flow cytometry, respectively. Postoperative infection rates were determined in patients undergoing cardiac surgery and randomized to TXA (ACTRN12605000557639; We demonstrate that TXA-mediated plasmin blockade modulates the immune system and reduces surgery-induced immunosuppression in patients following cardiac surgery. TXA enhanced the expression of immune-activating markers while reducing the expression of immunosuppressive markers on multiple myeloid and lymphoid cell populations in peripheral blood. TXA administration significantly reduced postoperative infection rates, despite the fact that patients were being administered prophylactic antibiotics. This effect was independent of the effect of TXA at reducing blood loss. TXA was also shown to exert an immune-modulatory effect in healthy volunteers, further supporting the fibrin-independent effect of TXA on immune function and indicating that baseline plasmin levels contribute to the regulation of the immune system in the absence of any comorbidity or surgical trauma. Finally, the capacity of TXA to reduce infection rates, modulate the innate immune cell profile, and generate an antifibrinolytic effect overall was markedly reduced in patients with diabetes, demonstrating for the first time that the diabetic condition renders patients partially refractory to TXA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1598-1609
Number of pages12
JournalBlood Advances
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2019

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