A platelet viability assay (PVA) for the diagnosis of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia

Platelets. 2019;30(8):1017-1021. doi: 10.1080/09537104.2018.1562169. Epub 2019 Jan 29.


Diagnosing heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) requires functional assays measuring platelet activation as they are highly specific and sensitive. A useful functional test for diagnosing HIT is the serotonin release assay (SRA), but this assay is technically demanding and requires a radioactive marker. We describe an alternate functional HIT assay, the platelet viability assay (PVA), that overcomes the need for a radioactive marker by using a viability dye endpoint to measure platelet activation. We compared the performance characteristics of the PVA to the SRA. Serum samples from 76 patients with suspected HIT were tested in both the PVA and the SRA. The PVA uses calcein-AM as a marker of platelet viability, with decreases in fluorescence and cell size as surrogate markers for platelet activation. A significant linear correlation (Spearman correlation, r = -0.78, P < 0.0001) was observed between the PVA and SRA. Calcein-AM fluorescence decreased in a negative linear relationship with platelet activation as measured by 14C-serotonin release. The PVA detected all positive SRA samples, with an overall sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 97% in comparison to the SRA. The measurement of platelet viability using the PVA provided similar results to the SRA when testing suspected HIT patient samples.

Keywords: Calcein-AM; HIT; SRA; platelet viability.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Platelets / cytology
  • Blood Platelets / metabolism*
  • Heparin / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Thrombocytopenia / chemically induced*


  • Heparin