False-Negative Platelet Factor 4 Antibodies and Serotonin Release Assay and the Utility of Repeat Testing in the Diagnosis of Heparin-Induced Thrombocytopenia and Thrombosis

Case Rep Hematol. 2019 Jan 8:2019:1585014. doi: 10.1155/2019/1585014. eCollection 2019.


Objective: To report a case of false-negative serological tests in the diagnosis of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) followed by a brief review of the literature on this topic.

Case presentation: A 75-year-old Caucasian female patient was admitted with a traumatic right ankle fracture that required open reduction and internal fixation. Despite postoperative subcutaneous heparin chemoprophylaxis, she developed deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) on day 4 and subsequently started on continuous heparin infusion. On day 5, she suffered a stroke from a complete occlusion of the right common carotid artery with tandem occlusion of the right middle cerebral artery. She underwent successful thrombectomy of both arteries. The proposed stroke mechanism was paradoxical embolism through a patent foramen ovale. Over the next few days, thrombocytopenia was noted, the heparin drip was stopped, and HIT antibodies (antibodies targeting the complex of platelet factor 4 and heparin; PF4-H AB) and serotonin release assay (SRA) tests were sent. Because of the suspicion for HIT, she was started on bivalirudin with subsequent improvement in platelet count. Initial PF4-H AB and SRA tests were negative, bivalirudin was stopped, and heparin was restarted. Subsequently, her platelets trended down, again raising clinical suspicion of HIT. Repeat PF4-H AB and SRA testing resulted positive.

Conclusions: A positive SRA in the appropriate context is considered for the diagnosis of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia. This case report highlights that false-negative serological evaluation is possible early in the course of the disease. Repeat testing is recommended in patients with high clinical suspicion.

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  • Case Reports