Hereditary protein C deficiency: a review of the genetics, clinical presentation, diagnosis and treatment

Blood Coagul Fibrinolysis. 1990 Aug;1(3):319-30.


Protein C (PC) is the central component of a major antithrombotic regulatory system with both anticoagulant and profibrinolytic properties. A deficiency of PC is one of several hereditary abnormalities of haemostatic proteins that have been described in patients with a propensity for thromboembolic complications. Major morbidity is often seen in these patients. The various aspects of hereditary PC deficiency in terms of clinical presentation, genetics, diagnosis and treatment of both homozygous and heterozygous states will be presented. In heterozygous deficiency, the levels of plasma PC are usually between 35% and 65% of normal, whereas the majority of normal individuals have levels between 70% and 130%. PC-deficient patients usually develop venous thrombotic complications between the ages of 15 and 40 years with a high incidence of DVT and pulmonary embolism. The majority of thrombotic lesions appear to develop spontaneously; others are associated with trauma, surgery or pregnancy. Treatment of symptomatic patients is initial heparin therapy followed by coumadin. After multiple thrombotic events, lifelong oral anticoagulant therapy is necessary. The potential complications of treatment are coumadin-induced skin necrosis, heparin-induced thrombocytopenia and bleeding. Homozygous PC deficiency, a rare but fatal hereditary condition, manifests itself with massive DIC and purpura fulminans in the newborn period. Effective treatment for these infants can be instituted with either oral anticoagulant therapy or PC replacement. The heterozygous deficiency of PC is similar to that found in other inherited disorders in that several genetic mechanisms are responsible for the expression of the disease. Both quantitative and qualitative decreases in PC exist, the former being type I deficiency and the latter, type II. The best initial diagnosis of either form involves a clotting (functional) assay while differentiation between the two also requires an antigenic (immunological) assay. Autosomal inheritance with significant variable penetrance is found with profound clinical implications. In summary, PC deficiency is one of a group of inherited disorders termed hereditary thrombotic disease, which may have serious implications for patient morbidity and mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Protein C / genetics
  • Protein C Deficiency*
  • Thromboembolism / diagnosis
  • Thromboembolism / etiology*
  • Thromboembolism / genetics
  • Thromboembolism / therapy


  • Protein C