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Clin Chim Acta. 2000 Oct;300(1-2):13-21.

Stability of prothrombin time and activated partial thromboplastin time tests under different storage conditions.

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  • 1UTMB/TDCJ Correctional Managed Care, Huntsville, TX, USA.


Prothrombin time (PT) and activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) are common laboratory tests that are useful in the diagnosis of coagulation disorders and monitoring anticoagulant therapy. Recent expansions in the outreach laboratory services at our institution prompted us to investigate the shipping limitations for some tests, including PT and aPTT. Although we followed NCCLS guidelines for the collection of blood specimens, we observed falsely elevated PT and aPTT values due to the different storage conditions. The objective of this study is to determine the effect of conditions and duration of storage on PT and aPTT tests using plasma and whole blood samples, respectively. For this study, 36 plasma samples with normal and prolonged PT and aPTT were exposed to different storage conditions. Blood was centrifuged immediately and plasma was stored at room temperature (RT), refrigerated at 4 degrees C, or frozen at -20 degrees C. The samples were analyzed at 0 h and repeated at 6, 12 and 24 h under various conditions. Although statistically significant differences were observed for plasma samples for normal PT tests after 12 h at refrigerated and frozen storage conditions, the differences would not change the clinical interpretation of the results. On the other hand, samples stored refrigerated or at RT showed significant differences for aPTT at 24 h. These differences would change clinical interpretation, especially for samples with normal or near normal aPTT times. Interestingly, aPTT was significantly higher for samples stored frozen when compared to refrigerated and RT conditions at 6 h. Similar patterns were also observed on ten whole blood samples with normal PT and aPTT values. In conclusion, either plasma or whole blood samples can be accepted for PT testing up to 24 h and for aPTT testing up to 12 h only, when transported either at RT or at 4 degrees C.

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