Introduction: Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) results from antibodies to PF4/heparin complexes and clinical diagnosis is difficult. We evaluated the particle immunofiltration anti-platelet factor 4 (PIFA) rapid assay, in conjunction with a clinical risk score, in the diagnosis of HIT. Methods: We performed a prospective observational study in all patients admitted to the medical intensive care unit (MICU) in a large academic medical center. Patients were screened daily for thrombocytopenia defined as either a platelet count that decreased by at least 33% or an absolute platelet count less than 150,000/μL. Patients with suspected HIT underwent PIFA and ELISA testing for anti-PF4/heparin antibodies. Available residual frozen sera were sent to a reference laboratory for serotonin release assay (SRA) testing. Results: During the study period, 340 patients were admitted to the MICU, of which 143 patients met criteria for thrombocytopenia. Forty-three patients had no evidence of recent heparin exposure. PIFA and ELISA testing were performed on 100 patients, of which 92 had samples available for SRA analysis. PIFA results were negative in 62, positive in 28 and inconclusive in 2 patients. The 4Ts score showed low to intermediate risk in 57 of the PIFA negative patients. The ELISA results were negative in 86 and positive in 6 patients. SRA testing identified 3 patients with a positive SRA test and 89 patients with a negative result. All patients with a negative PIFA result also had a negative SRA result. In the one patient deemed to have clinical HIT, the pretest probability was high (4Ts score of 6) and the anti-PF4/heparin antibody testing revealed a positive SRA, inconclusive PIFA and a negative ELISA result. Conclusions: While thrombocytopenia in our population is common, the prevalence of HIT is low. The combination of a low to intermediate pretest probability with a negative PIFA test can rapidly exclude the presence of platelet activating anti-PF4/heparin antibodies and, therefore, HIT as the cause of the thrombocytopenia. Since a positive PIFA result has a low positive predictive value, a positive PIFA is not diagnostic of HIT and additional evaluation is warranted.
- clinical laboratory techniques
- intensive care
- platelet factor 4
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine