Platelets as predictors of vascular risk: is there a practical index of platelet activity?

Clin Appl Thromb Hemost. 2003 Jul;9(3):177-90. doi: 10.1177/107602960300900301.


Activated platelets play a role in the pathogenesis of coronary heart disease (CHD). Following activation, platelets change shape, aggregate, and release several bioactive substances. The aim of this review is to identify if there is a simple and cost-effective method that indicates platelet activation and predicts the risk of CHD and vascular events. The rationale for identifying high-risk patients is to reduce their risk of vascular events by administering appropriate and effective antiplatelet treatment, like aspirin, clopidogrel, or combination regimens. Many laboratory tests estimating platelet activity have been described. Some are relatively simple, such as spontaneous or agonist-induced platelet aggregation. Other tests include measuring the mean platelet volume (MPV) or plasma soluble P-selectin levels. Some more complex tests include flow cytometry to determine platelet GP IIb/IIIa receptors, platelet surface P-selectin, platelet-monocyte aggregates, and microparticles. Only few prospective studies assessed the predictive value of platelet activation in healthy individuals. Although the MPV seems an 'easy' method, there are insufficient data supporting its ability to predict the risk of a vascular event in healthy adults. Platelet aggregation, in whole blood or in platelet-rich plasma was not consistently predictive of vascular risk. Soluble P-selectin measurement is a promising method but it needs further evaluation. Flow cytometry methods are costly, time-consuming, and need specialized equipment. Thus, they are unlikely to be useful in estimating the risk in large numbers of patients. There is as yet no ideal test for the detection of platelet activation. Each currently available test has merits and disadvantages. Simple methods such as the MPV and the determination of platelet release products need further evaluation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers*
  • Blood Platelets / physiology*
  • Coronary Disease / blood*
  • Coronary Disease / diagnosis
  • Coronary Disease / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Platelet Activation / physiology*
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Risk Assessment


  • Biomarkers
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors