Serological investigation of patients with a previous history of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia who are reexposed to heparin
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Heparin reexposure despite a history of previous heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) can be appropriate if platelet-activating antibodies are no longer detectable. We determined the frequency, timing, and magnitude of the antiplatelet factor 4 (anti-PF4)/heparin immune response (by serotonin-release assay [SRA] and enzyme-immunoassay [EIA]), and the frequency of recurrent HIT in 20 patients with previous HIT reexposed to heparin 4.4 years (mean) post-HIT; 17 patients were given heparin intraoperatively (without postoperative heparin) for cardiac/vascular surgery. One patient developed recurrent HIT beginning 7 days after cardiac surgery, with newly regenerated HIT antibodies exhibiting strong heparin-independent platelet-activating properties. Intraoperative heparin induced EIA seroconversion in 11/17 (65%) patients (immunoglobulin G [IgG]>IgA>IgM) and SRA seroconversion in 8/17 (47%), whereas none of 3 medical patients reexposed to heparin developed seroconversion. Anti-PF4/heparin IgG became detectable at day 7 (median), ie, no sooner than observed in typical-onset HIT. The high proportion of SRA positivity among EIA-seroconverting patients (8/11 [73%]) suggests that patients with previous HIT may be especially predisposed to forming recurrent antibodies with platelet-activating properties. We conclude that among patients with a previous history of HIT who are reexposed to intraoperative (but not postoperative) heparin, the risk of recurrent HIT appears to be low, but is possible if antibodies with strong heparin-independent platelet-activating properties are formed.
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