In physiological hemostasis a prompt recruitment of platelets on the vessel damage prevents the bleeding by the rapid formation of a platelet plug. Qualitative and/or quantitative platelet defects promote bleeding, whereas the high residual reactivity of platelets in patients on antiplatelet therapies moves forward thromboembolic complications. The biochemical mechanisms of the different phases of platelet activation - adhesion, shape change, release reaction, and aggregation - have been well delineated, whereas their complete translation into laboratory assays has not been so fulfilled. Laboratory tests of platelet function, such as bleeding time, light transmission platelet aggregation, lumiaggregometry, impedance aggregometry on whole blood, and platelet activation investigated by flow cytometry, are traditionally utilized for diagnosing hemostatic disorders and managing patients with platelet and hemostatic defects, but their use is still limited to specialized laboratories. To date, a point-of-care testing (POCT) dedicated to platelet function, using pertinent devices much simpler to use, has now become available (ie, PFA-100, VerifyNow System, Multiplate Electrode Aggregometry [MEA]). POCT includes new methodologies which may be used in critical clinical settings and also in general laboratories because they are rapid and easy to use, employing whole blood without the necessity of sample processing. Actually, these different platelet methodologies for the evaluation of inherited and acquired bleeding disorders and/or for monitoring antiplatelet therapies are spreading and the study of platelet function is strengthening. In this review, well-tried and innovative platelet function tests and their methodological features and clinical applications are considered.
Keywords: bleeding; laboratory assessment; method; platelets; point-of-care testing; thrombosis.