Approaches to investigating common bleeding disorders: An evaluation of North American coagulation laboratory practices
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Bleeding disorders commonly result from deficiencies or defects in von Willebrand factor (VWF), platelets, coagulation factors, or fibrinolytic proteins. The primary goal of our study was to assess current North American coagulation laboratory practices for diagnosing bleeding disorders, using an on-line patterns-of-practice survey of diagnostic laboratory members of the North American Specialized Coagulation Laboratory Association. The survey examined laboratory approaches to evaluating bleeding disorders, with specific questions about the tests and test panels offered and compliance to recent guideline recommendations on diagnosing von Willebrand disease (VWD) and platelet function disorders. All laboratories responding to the survey performed a prothrombin time/international normalized ratio, an activated partial thromboplastin time, and coagulation factor assays, and many tested for VWD and platelet disorders. However, few laboratories had test panels that evaluated the more common bleeding disorders and few performed some assays, including VWF multimer assessments and assays for fibrinolytic disorders. Additionally, the cutoffs used by laboratories to diagnose type 1 VWD varied considerably, with only a minority following the National Heart Lung Blood Institute recommendations. In contrast, laboratories that tested for platelet function disorders mostly complied with aggregation testing recommendations, as published in the recent North American guidelines. Our results indicate that there are some gaps in the strategies used by laboratories to diagnose bleeding disorders that might be addressed by development of further guidelines and test algorithms that emphasize evaluations for common bleeding disorders. Laboratories may also benefit from guidelines on test interpretation, and external evaluation of their bleeding disorder testing strategies.