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This Sqadia video demonstrates about hemostasis and blood coagulation. Platelets are key players in hemostasis, the process by which the body seals a ruptured blood vessel and prevents further loss of blood. Although rupture of larger vessels usually requires medical intervention, hemostasis is quite effective in dealing with small, simple wounds. There are three steps to the process: vascular spasm, the formation of a platelet plug, and coagulation (blood clotting). Failure of any of these steps will result in hemorrhage—excessive bleeding. When a vessel is severed or punctured, or when the wall of a vessel is damaged, vascular spasm occurs. In vascular spasm, the smooth muscle in the walls of the vessel contracts dramatically. This smooth muscle has both circular layers; larger vessels also have longitudinal layers. The circular layers tend to constrict the flow of blood, whereas the longitudinal layers, when present, draw the vessel back into the surrounding tissue, often making it more difficult for a surgeon to locate, clamp, and tie off a severed vessel. The vascular spasm response is believed to be triggered by several chemicals called endothelins that are released by vessel-lining cells and by pain receptors in response to vessel injury. This phenomenon typically lasts for up to 30 minutes, although it can last for hours.
Coagulation of Blood
Those more sophisticated and more durable repairs are collectively called coagulation, the formation of a blood clot. The process is sometimes characterized as a cascade, because one event prompts the next as in a multi-level waterfall. In the coagulation cascade, chemicals called clotting factors (or coagulation factors) prompt reactions that activate still more coagulation factors. The process is complex but is initiated along two basic pathways: The extrinsic pathway, which normally is triggered by trauma. The intrinsic pathway, which begins in the bloodstream and is triggered by internal damage to the wall of the vessel. The quicker responding and more direct extrinsic pathway (also known as the tissue factor pathway) begins when damage occurs to the surrounding tissues, such as in a traumatic injury. The intrinsic pathway (also known as the contact activation pathway) is longer and more complex. In this case, the factors involved are intrinsic to (present within) the blood stream.
Clot and Anti-Clotting Mechanism
An anticoagulant is any substance that opposes coagulation. Several circulating plasma anticoagulants play a role in limiting the coagulation process to the region of injury and restoring a normal, clot-free condition of blood. For instance, a cluster of proteins collectively referred to as the protein C system inactivates clotting factors involved in the intrinsic pathway. TFPI (tissue factor pathway inhibitor) inhibits the conversion of the inactive factor VII to the active form in the extrinsic pathway. Antithrombin inactivates factor X and opposes the conversion of prothrombin (factor II) to thrombin in the common pathway. And as noted earlier, basophils release heparin, a short-acting anticoagulant that also opposes prothrombin. Heparin is also found on the surfaces of cells lining the blood vessels. A pharmaceutical form of heparin is often administered therapeutically, for example, in surgical patients at risk for blood clots.
Either an insufficient or an excessive production of platelets can lead to severe disease or death. As discussed earlier, an insufficient number of platelets, called thrombocytopenia, typically results in the inability of blood to form clots. This can lead to excessive bleeding, even from minor wounds. Another reason for failure of the blood to clot is the inadequate production of functional amounts of one or more clotting factors. This is the case in the genetic disorder hemophilia, which is actually a group of related disorders, the most common of which is hemophilia A, accounting for approximately 80 percent of cases. This disorder results in the inability to synthesize sufficient quantities of factor VIII. In contrast to the disorders characterized by coagulation failure is thrombocytosis, also mentioned earlier, a condition characterized by excessive numbers of platelets that increases the risk for excessive clot formation, a condition known as thrombosis.
Tests for Blood Clotting
Hemostasis is the physiological process by which bleeding ceases. Hemostasis involves three basic steps: vascular spasm, the formation of a platelet plug, and coagulation, in which clotting factors promote the formation of a fibrin clot. Fibrinolysis is the process in which a clot is degraded in a healing vessel. Anticoagulants are substances that oppose coagulation. They are important in limiting the extent and duration of clotting. Inadequate clotting can result from too few platelets, or inadequate production of clotting factors, for instance, in the genetic disorder hemophilia. Excessive clotting, called thrombosis, can be caused by excessive numbers of platelets. A thrombus is a collection of fibrin, platelets, and erythrocytes that has accumulated along the lining of a blood vessel, whereas an embolus is a thrombus that has broken free from the vessel wall and is circulating in the bloodstream.