Author(s): Otis SA, Zehnder JL
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Abstract Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) is a fairly common and potentially catastrophic complication of heparin therapy. Diagnosing HIT remains a challenge, as the patients at risk often have other reasons for thrombocytopenia and/or thrombosis. HIT is considered a clinicopathologic disorder whose diagnosis is generally made on the basis of both clinical criteria and the presence of "HIT antibodies" in the patient's serum or plasma. There are two basic laboratory approaches to detect HIT antibodies. The immunoassays detect antibodies based on their binding properties, whereas the functional assays detect antibodies based on their platelet-activating properties. Prompt and accurate diagnosis of HIT is imperative, as overdiagnosis exposes patients to alternative anticoagulants and their associated bleeding risks, whereas under- or delayed diagnosis leaves patients vulnerable to the thromboembolic sequelae of HIT, which can be life threatening. A critical interpretation of laboratory results by the clinician is an essential component of diagnosing HIT. This requires a keen understanding of the current concepts in the pathophysiologic mechanisms of the disease, and the application of these concepts when interpreting the results of both the functional and immunoassays. Equally important is an awareness of the strengths and weaknesses, as well as the current lack of standardization and proficiency testing, of these assays. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
This article was published in Am J Hematol
and referenced in Journal of Blood Disorders & Transfusion