Interpreting coagulation assays

Blood Coagul Fibrinolysis. 2010 Sep;21 Suppl 1:S3-6. doi: 10.1097/01.mbc.0000388935.77612.d0.


The interpretation of coagulation assays requires knowledge of the principal clotting pathways. The activated partial thromboplastin time is sensitive to all hemostatic factors except FVII, whereas the prothrombin time reflects levels of prothrombin and FV, FVII, and FX. Using the two tests in concert is helpful in identifying hemophilia, the coagulopathy of liver disease, and disseminated intravascular coagulation. In addition, the activated partial thromboplastin time and prothrombin time are used for monitoring anticoagulant therapy with heparin and warfarin, respectively. Measurement of D-dimer is informative in patients suspected of having thrombotic disorders and determining the risk of thrombosis recurrence. Mixing tests distinguish clotting factor deficiencies from circulating anticoagulants such as heparin, the lupus anticoagulant, and antibodies directed against specific clotting factors. The modified Bethesda assay detects and provides an indication of the strength of FVIII inhibitors. However, interpreting the results of coagulation assays is not always straightforward, and expert consultation is occasionally required to resolve difficult clinical situations.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Coagulation Tests / methods*
  • Diagnostic Techniques and Procedures
  • Drug Monitoring / methods
  • Humans