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Am J Clin Pathol. 1986 Sep;86(3):304-10.

Prevalence and clinical implications of heparin-associated false positive tests for serum fibrin(ogen) degradation products.


An electrophoretic method has been applied to characterize specific fibrinogen and fibrin degradation products (FDP) in 135 serum samples from 59 consecutive patients having a positive latex agglutination test for serum FDP in the evaluation of consumption coagulopathy. In 20 of 135 positive samples, the principal fibrinogen derivatives present were not degradation products of fibrinogen or fibrin but were instead residual fibrinogen or fibrin monomer and polymers (FFMP) due to incomplete clotting. Heparin exposure was common in patients with positive FDP tests occurring in 29 of 59 patients (49%) with 81 of 135 samples (60%). Heparin exposure by parenteral administration or catheter was significantly correlated with a false positive serum FDP test because of residual FFMP occurring in 19 of 81 (23%) samples from heparin-exposed patients but in only 1 of 54 (2%) samples from patients without exposure (P less than 0.005). Treatment of the false positive samples with reptilase, an enzyme unaffected by heparin, resulted in complete removal of the residual FFMP, and in vitro experiments demonstrated that heparin-containing plasma samples could be completely clotted with either reptilase or protamine sulfate plus thrombin. Survey of 20 regional laboratories showed that only 10% used reptilase or protamine sulfate to prepare serum if heparin exposure had occurred and that this was done in only 22 of 5,049 (0.4%) of samples in the last calendar year. Greater attention should be given to proper preparation of serum from heparin-exposed patients, and physicians should be aware of the possibility of falsely positive or falsely elevated serum FDP tests in evaluation of consumption coagulopathy in heparin-exposed patients.

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