Blood tests for the diagnosis of venous and arterial thrombosis.
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There are many reports in the literature of blood test abnormalities occurring in patients with venous or arterial thrombosis. Most of these have not used acceptable criteria for establishing an association between thrombosis and blood tests and, therefore, their interpretation is questionable. Recently, sensitive and specific assays have been developed for the detection of products of intravascular thrombin formation, of plasmin digests of fibrin or fibrinogen and of platelet specific proteins that are released into the plasma when platelets react with stimuli. Blood abnormalities have been sought that can either predict or detect venous thrombosis. Many of the predictive tests evaluated are nonspecific acute phase reactant responses to inflammation; of these, only reduced fibrinolytic activity has been consistently reported to be associated with postoperative venous thrombosis. Hereditary antithrombin III deficiency has been consistently shown to predispose patients to venous thrombosis. Abnormalities of the plasminogen and fibrinogen molecule have also been described in patients with familial or recurrent venous thrombosis but these are rare and the association could be coincidental. Two blood tests, the fibrinopeptide A assay and the assay for fibrin/fibrinogen fragment E are highly sensitive to acute venous thromboembolism in symptomatic patients but both are nonspecific. Elevated levels of beta thromboglobulin and platelet factor 4 have been reported in patients with arterial thromboembolism but the sensitivity and specificity of these findings is presently unknown.
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