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Semin Thromb Hemost. 2008 Oct;34(7):604-11. doi: 10.1055/s-0028-1104539. Epub 2008 Dec 15.

Activated partial thromboplastin time: new tricks for an old dogma.

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  • 1Sezione di Chimica Clinica, Universit√† di Verona, Verona, Italy.


The activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT) is the most common coagulation test procedure performed in routine laboratories, apart from the prothrombin time. The test is traditionally used for identifying quantitative and qualitative abnormalities in the intrinsic and common pathways of coagulation, monitoring anticoagulant therapy with unfractionated heparin, and detecting inhibitors of blood coagulation, the most common of which is the lupus anticoagulant. Whereas short APTT values have been mostly overlooked in the past, recent evidence suggests that these might be associated with hypercoagulability. Although clinical relevance is yet to be clearly defined, hypercoagulability detected by a shortened APTT appears to be significantly associated with a major risk of venous thromboembolism independently from other variables such as blood group, the presence of inherited thrombophilia, and factor VIII levels. This novel finding suggests that this traditional, simple, and inexpensive test might have renewed utility along with traditional thrombophilic tests in the evaluation of venous thromboembolic risk. In addition, APTT waveform analysis is also providing mounting evidence of added utility, in particular for identifying sepsis and disseminated intravascular coagulation in critically ill patients (particularly where this might worsen the prognosis), for monitoring therapy in patients with inhibitors, and as a diagnostic aid to identify patients with antiphospholipid antibodies. In total, such emerging evidence suggests that the APTT is either an old dogma displaying new tricks or else might describe a new dogma for an old laboratory trick.

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