Serotonin‐release assay‐negative heparin‐induced thrombocytopenia
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Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) is a prothrombotic drug reaction caused by platelet-activating anti-platelet factor 4 (PF4)/heparin antibodies. Pathogenic HIT antibodies can be detected by the serotonin-release assay (SRA), a platelet activation test. We have regarded the SRA performed in our medical community ("McMaster" SRA) as having high sensitivity and specificity. Recently, the concept of "SRA-negative HIT" has been proposed for enzyme-immunoassay (EIA)-positive/SRA-negative patients with a HIT-compatible clinical picture, who test positive in a PF4-enhanced platelet activation assay. After identifying an index case of SRA-negative HIT, we estimated the frequency of this condition by performing the "PF4-SRA" (modified SRA using high concentrations of added PF4 rather than heparin) in EIA-positive patients from a cohort study evaluating clinical and laboratory diagnosis of HIT. We defined SRA-negative HIT as patients meeting three criteria: clinical picture compatible with HIT (4Ts ≥ 4 points); EIA-positive (≥1.00 units); and PF4-SRA-positive. Among 430 patients, 35 were EIA-positive/SRA-positive and 27 were EIA-positive/SRA-negative. Among these 27 SRA-negative patients, three were found to have subthreshold levels of platelet-activating antibodies by PF4-SRA, of whom one met clinical criteria for SRA-negative HIT. Thus, based on identifying one patient with SRA-negative HIT within a cohort study that found 35 SRA-positive HIT patients, we estimate the sensitivity of the McMaster SRA for diagnosis of HIT to be 35/36 (97.2%; 95% CI, 85.8-99.9%). Although the McMaster SRA is highly sensitive for HIT, occasional SRA-negative but EIA-positive patients strongly suspected of having HIT can have this diagnosis supported by a PF4-enhanced activation assay such as the PF4-SRA.
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