A comparative study of platelet factor 4‐enhanced platelet activation assays for the diagnosis of heparin‐induced thrombocytopenia
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BACKGROUND: Functional platelet activation assays, such as the serotonin release assay (SRA), are the gold standard for the diagnosis of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT). Recently, platelet activation assays using added platelet factor 4 (PF4) have been described and suggest improved sensitivity. Direct comparisons of these assays have not been performed. OBJECTIVE: We compare the performance characteristics of three PF4-enhanced platelet activation assays, the PF4/heparin-SRA (PF4/hep-SRA), the PF4-SRA, and the P-selectin expression assay (PEA), at a single reference laboratory. METHODS: Serum samples from two cohorts of patients were used. The referral cohort (n = 84) included samples that had previously undergone routine diagnostic testing for HIT and tested positive or negative using the SRA. The clinical cohort (n = 101) consisted of samples from patients with clinically confirmed HIT whose serum contained platelet-activating antibodies. We simultaneously tested all samples in PF4-enhanced SRA-based assays (PF4/hep-SRA, PF4-SRA) and the flow cytometry-based PEA. RESULTS: In the referral cohort, the three PF4-enhanced assays identified all samples that were previously determined to be positive in the SRA. However, specificity of the PF4/hep-SRA was 96.6%, the PF4-SRA was 84.7%, and the PEA was 67.8%. In the clinical cohort of samples, all SRA-based assays displayed high performance characteristics (>92.1% sensitivity, >98.4% specificity). Sensitivity and specificity of the PEA was the lowest, 65.8% and 63.5%, respectively; but improved to 92.1% and 96.8% using preselected platelet donors. CONCLUSIONS: All PF4-enhanced assays demonstrated good performance characteristics when platelet donors were preselected. Further comparisons across multiple laboratories should be conducted for consensus on optimal HIT diagnostic testing.
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