Serotonin‐release assay‐positive but platelet factor 4‐dependent enzyme‐immunoassay negative:
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IgG-specific and polyspecific PF4-dependent enzyme-immunoassays (EIAs) have exceptionally high sensitivity (≥99%) for diagnosis of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT), a drug reaction caused by platelet-activating antibodies detectable by serotonin-release assay (SRA). The IgG-specific EIAs are recommended for screening, as their high sensitivity is accompanied by relatively high specificity vis-à-vis polyspecific EIAs. We investigated the frequency of SRA-positive/EIA-negative (SRA+/EIA-) HIT, prompted by referral to our reference HIT laboratory of serial blood samples from a patient ("index case") with false-negative IgG-specific EIAs. Despite initial clinical suspicion for HIT, repeat negative IgG-specific EIAs prompted heparin resumption, which triggered recurrent thrombocytopenia and near-fatal cardiac arrest, indicating likely post-heparin HIT-associated anaphylactoid reaction. Further investigations revealed a strong-positive SRA, whether performed with heparin alone, PF4 alone, or PF4/heparin, with inhibition by Fc receptor-blocking monoclonal antibody (indicating IgG-mediated platelet activation); however, five different IgG-specific immunoassays yielded primarily negative (or weak-positive) results. To investigate the frequency of SRA+/EIA- HIT, we reviewed the laboratory and clinical features of patients with this serological profile during a 6-year period in which our reference laboratory investigated for HIT using both SRA and IgG-specific EIA. Although ~0.2% of 8546 patients had an SRA+/EIA- profile, further review of 15 such cases indicated clerical/laboratory misclassification or false-positive SRA in all, with no SRA+/EIA- HIT case identified. We conclude that while SRA+/EIA- HIT is possible-as shown by our index case-this clinical picture is exceptionally uncommon. Moreover, the requirement for a positive EIA is a useful quality control maneuver that reduces risk of reporting a false-positive SRA result.
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