Continuous renal replacement therapies (CRRT) are widely used in the treatment of acute kidney injury. Several causes, related to the treatment itself or to the patient’s condition, determine the coagulation of the extracorporeal circuit. These interruptions (or down-time) have a negative impact on the effectiveness of the treatment in terms of solute clearance and fluid balance. Historically, the choice of anticoagulant has fallen on unfractionated heparin because it is cheap and easy to use. Today, the use of citrate is recommended in most instances because of its high efficacy and safety. Several studies demonstrate the superiority of citrate in terms of filter survival. The reduction of down-time results in a reduction of the delta between the prescribed dialysis dose and the dose that is actually administered (ml/Kg/hour of collected effluent). The literature also agrees that there is a reduction in the incidence of major bleeding events when citrate is used instead of heparin, although there is no impact on mortality rates.
Some technical and clinical complexities, secondary to citrate action both as anticoagulant and buffer, still exist in the use of regional citrate anticoagulation. However, complications due to citrate use, such as acid-base balance disorders and hypocalcaemia, are rare and easily reversible.
There is not much data about the costs and benefits of using citrate instead of heparin; according to the experience within our own Unit, we have observed a reduction in costs when the data is normalized for 35 ml of effluent administered. Appropriate protocols, accurate surveillance and the automated management of regional citrate anticoagulation thanks to dedicated software make this technique safe and effective.
Keywords: anticoagulation, citrate, acute kidney injury, CRRT