Use of D-Dimer Assays in the Diagnosis of Venous Thrombosis

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In the course of fibrin formation, the D-domains of adjacent fibrin molecules within the fibrin polymer are covalently linked by factor XIIIa, leading to the formation of a D-domain dimer. Proteolysis of this cross-linked fibrin generates fibrin fragments D-dimer and E as terminal products. Fragment D-dimer therefore is an indicator for the proteolysis of cross-linked fibrin, whereas the monomeric fragment D can stem from fibrinogen and non-cross-linked fibrin. Various monoclonal antibodies have been prepared that distinguish between fragments D-dimer and D and allow the detection of fibrin derivatives in the presence of fibrinogen. These anti-D-dimer-antibodies have been shown to react with fragment D-dimer, but also detect dimeric D-domains within larger fibrin compounds, including cross-linked fibrin complexes generated in an early phase of coagulation activation. Assay systems for D-dimer antigen therefore may uncover intravascular clot formation early, by detection of fibrin complexes, and after completion of clot formation, by the detection of proteolytic fragments released from the particulate clot. Various trials have shown that low concentrations of D-dimer antigen in the blood exclude recent venous thrombosis or pulmonary embolism. Elevated levels may be caused by venous thrombotic disease, but also by a variety of other conditions, leading to intra- or extravascular fibrin formation. Assay systems include manual immunoagglutination assays, immunofiltration assays, microtiter plate enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) systems, automated ELISA systems, and latex-enhanced photometric immunoassays. According to clinical studies, D-dimer assays may be the "first line" of technical screening in symptomatic outpatients with suspected venous thrombosis or pulmonary embolism, but further prospective management trials, and improved standardization of assay systems, are needed for the validation of this approach.

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