Patients who receive desmopressin acetate (dDAVP) after cardiopulmonary bypass bleed less during operation and in the first 24 hours after operation than do patients who receive a placebo. To study the mechanism of improved hemostasis in bypass patients, we examined the relationship between von Willebrand factor (vWF) and blood loss in 70 cardiopulmonary bypass patients, one-half of whom received desmopressin intraoperatively. vWF concentration and multimeric composition were analyzed before and after bypass, after drug treatment, and 24 hours after operation. Before operation, patients with valvular disease had lower percentages of vWF high-mol-wt multimers (HMWMs) than did healthy subjects or patients with coronary artery disease, but subsequent blood loss, vWF activity, and bleeding times were not related to this finding. Irrespective of drug treatment, patients who had low preoperative vWF and who had a net loss of the protein during bypass bled more after bypass than did similar patients who had a net increase of vWF during bypass. HMWMs rose to above normal levels after bypass regardless of desmopressin infusion. Differences in the concentration of vWF between desmopressin and placebo patients after receipt of the drug, although small, were better correlated with reduced blood loss than were differences in HMWM distribution. We conclude that the beneficial effect of desmopressin on hemostasis following cardiopulmonary bypass cannot be attributed to a drug-induced change in HMWM distribution but may be related to an increase in overall vWF concentration.

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