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J Thromb Haemost. 2007 Feb;5(2):235-41. Epub 2006 Oct 31.

IgG classification of anti-PF4/heparin antibodies to identify patients with heparin-induced thrombocytopenia during mechanical circulatory support.

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  • 1Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Heart Center North Rhine Westphalia, Ruhr-Universit├Ąt Bochum, Bad Oeynhausen, Germany.


Commercial immunoassays frequently detect anti-PF4/heparin antibodies during mechanical circulatory support (MCS), but only a small minority of patients develops heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT). Whereas platelet functional tests can distinguish between platelet-activating and non-platelet-activating antibodies, commercial PF4-dependent immunoassays do not. Between 2003 and 2004, 113 patients were placed on MCS. Blood samples were obtained on postimplant day 5-7 for analyses by antibody assays and the functional heparin-induced platelet activation (HIPA) assay. Three distinct groups of patient sera were identified: platelet-activating anti-PF4/heparin antibodies (n = 10), non-platelet-activating anti-PF4/heparin antibodies (n = 53), and anti-PF4/heparin antibody negative (n = 50). Patients with platelet-activating antibodies had the highest risk for thromboembolic events (P < 0.005), whereas those with non-platelet-activating antibodies did not differ from antibody negative patients (P = 0.369). The enzyme-immunoassay and column agglutination assays, which cover all immunoglobulin classes, demonstrated adequate sensitivity and negative predictive value; yet, both lacked specificity with respect to the platelet-activating antibodies. If all antibody positive patients were further classified by an IgG-specific anti-PF4/heparin enzyme-immuno assay, specificity for platelet-activating antibodies increased. Whereas IgG-specific optical density (OD) values below 1.0 were likely for non-platelet-activating anti-PF4/heparin antibodies, higher values were progressively predictive for pathogenic platelet activation. The probability of the development of clinical HIT also increased steeply. In conclusion, platelet-activating anti-PF4/heparin antibodies are relatively common (about 9%) in patients on MCS and are associated with significantly higher thrombotic event rates. Low IgG-specific OD values (< 1.0) in the enzyme-immunoassay indicate low likelihood for the presence of platelet-activating antibodies. These results justify further validation so that anticoagulation during MCS becomes safer and adequate.

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