OBJECTIVE To investigate haemorheological changes in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting and to determine whether the protective effect on haemorheology of high-dose aprotinin also exists under a half-dose regimen. METHODS Forty patients were studied in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study design. Patients in the aprotinin group received half of the standard high dose of aprotinin during surgery. Erythrocyte and white-cell
clogging rates as well as whole blood and plasma viscosity were measured. Viscosity results were expressed as a ratio to the viscosity of saline. RESULTS Erythrocyte and white-cell clogging rates were increased significantly, whereas whole blood and plasma viscosity were decreased significantly during cardiopulmonary bypass. The reduction in viscosity had a strong correlation to haemodilution. There was no significant difference in any of the measured variables between the aprotinin and the placebo groups. CONCLUSION This study showed that blood cell damage occurred during cardiopulmonary bypass surgery, as measured by a raised clogging rate. This tendency was the same in both groups and therefore no increased potential for microthrombi could be attributed to aprotinin haemorheologically. However, half-dose aprotinin did not show any preserving effect in haemorheology when the blood-cell clogging rate and blood viscosity were studied.