Diagnosis and management of the antiphospholipid syndrome

Blood Rev. 2017 Nov;31(6):406-417. doi: 10.1016/j.blre.2017.07.006. Epub 2017 Jul 30.


Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is characterized by thrombosis and/or pregnancy complications in the presence of persistent antiphospholipid antibodies (APLA). Laboratory diagnosis of APLA depends upon the detection of a lupus anticoagulant, which prolongs phospholipid-dependent anticoagulation tests, and/or anticardiolipin (aCL) and anti-β2-glycoprotein-1 (β2GPI) antibodies. APLA are primarily directed toward phospholipid binding proteins. Pathophysiologic mechanisms underlying thrombosis and pregnancy loss in APS include APLA induced cellular activation, inhibition of natural anticoagulant and fibrinolytic systems, and complement activation, among others. There is a high rate of recurrent thrombosis in APS, especially in triple positive patients (patients with lupus anticoagulant, aCL and anti-β2GPI antibodies), and indefinite anticoagulation with a vitamin K antagonist is the standard of care for thrombotic APS. There is currently insufficient evidence to recommend the routine use of direct oral anticoagulants (DOAC) in thrombotic APS. Aspirin with low molecular weight or unfractionated heparin may reduce the incidence of pregnancy loss in obstetric APS. Recent insights into the pathogenesis of APS have led to the identification of new potential therapeutic interventions, including anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory therapies. Additional research is needed to better understand the effects of APLA on activation of signaling pathways in vascular cells, to identify more predictive biomarkers that define patients at greatest risk for a first or recurrent APLA-related clinical event, and to determine the safety and efficacy of DOACs and novel anti-inflammatory and immune-modulatory therapies for refractory APS.

Keywords: Anti-β2-glycoprotein-1; Antiphospholipid antibody; Antiphospholipid syndrome; Domain 1 anti-β2-glycoprotein-1; Thrombosis.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome / complications
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome / pathology
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome / therapy*
  • Disease Management
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxychloroquine / therapeutic use
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications / pathology
  • Pregnancy Complications / therapy
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Thrombosis / etiology
  • Thrombosis / pathology
  • Thrombosis / therapy


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Anticoagulants
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Hydroxychloroquine