IgG classification of anti-PF4/heparin antibodies to identify patients with heparin-induced thrombocytopenia during mechanical circulatory support

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Commercial immunoassays frequently detect anti-PF4/heparin antibodies during mechanical circulatory support (MCS), but only a small minority of patients develops heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT). Whereas platelet functional tests can distinguish between platelet-activating and non-platelet-activating antibodies, commercial PF4-dependent immunoassays do not. Between 2003 and 2004, 113 patients were placed on MCS. Blood samples were obtained on postimplant day 5–7 for analyses by antibody assays and the functional heparin-induced platelet activation (HIPA) assay. Three distinct groups of patient sera were identified: platelet-activating anti-PF4/heparin antibodies (n = 10), non-platelet-activating anti-PF4/heparin antibodies (n = 53), and anti-PF4/heparin antibody negative (n = 50). Patients with platelet-activating antibodies had the highest risk for thromboembolic events (P < 0.005), whereas those with non-platelet-activating antibodies did not differ from antibody negative patients (P = 0.369). The enzyme-immunoassay and column agglutination assays, which cover all immunoglobulin classes, demonstrated adequate sensitivity and negative predictive value; yet, both lacked specificity with respect to the platelet-activating antibodies. If all antibody positive patients were further classified by an IgG-specific anti-PF4/heparin enzyme-immuno assay, specificity for platelet-activating antibodies increased. Whereas IgG-specific optical density (OD) values below 1.0 were likely for non-platelet-activating anti-PF4/heparin antibodies, higher values were progressively predictive for pathogenic platelet activation. The probability of the development of clinical HIT also increased steeply. In conclusion, platelet-activating anti-PF4/heparin antibodies are relatively common (about 9%) in patients on MCS and are associated with significantly higher thrombotic event rates. Low IgG-specific OD values (< 1.0) in the enzyme-immunoassay indicate low likelihood for the presence of platelet-activating antibodies. These results justify further validation so that anticoagulation during MCS becomes safer and adequate.

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