The platelet serotonin-release assay
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Few laboratory tests are as clinically useful as The platelet serotonin-release assay (SRA): a positive SRA in the appropriate clinical context is virtually diagnostic of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT), a life- and limb-threatening prothrombotic disorder caused by anti-platelet factor 4 (PF4)/heparin antibodies that activate platelets, thereby triggering serotonin-release. The SRA's performance characteristics include high sensitivity and specificity, although caveats include indeterminate reaction profiles (observed in ∼4% of test sera) and potential for false-positive reactions. As only a subset of anti-PF4/heparin antibodies detectable by enzyme-immunoassay (EIA) are additionally platelet-activating, the SRA has far greater diagnostic specificity than the EIA. However, requiring a positive EIA, either as an initial screening test or as an SRA adjunct, will reduce risk of a false-positive SRA (since a negative EIA in a patient with a "positive" SRA should prompt critical evaluation of the SRA reaction profile). The SRA also provides useful information on whether a HIT serum produces strong platelet activation even in the absence of heparin: such heparin-"independent" platelet activation is a marker of unusually severe HIT, including delayed-onset HIT and severe HIT complicated by consumptive coagulopathy with risk for microvascular thrombosis.
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