A multicentre assessment of contemporary laboratory assays for heparin induced thrombocytopenia

Pathology. 2021 Feb;53(2):247-256. doi: 10.1016/j.pathol.2020.07.012. Epub 2020 Oct 5.


Heparin induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) is a rare but potentially fatal complication of heparin therapy. In some patients, HIT causes platelet activation and thrombosis (sometimes abbreviated HITT), which leads to adverse clinical sequalae ('pathological HIT'). The likelihood of HIT is initially assessed clinically, typically using a scoring system, of which the 4T score is that most utilised. Subsequent laboratory testing to confirm or exclude HIT facilitates exclusion or diagnosis and management. The current investigation comprises a multicentre (n=9) assessment of contemporary laboratory testing for HIT, as performed over the past 1-3 years in each site and comprising testing of over 1200 samples. The primary laboratory test used by study participants (n=8) comprised a chemiluminescence procedure (HIT-IgG(PF4-H)) performed on an AcuStar instrument. Additional immunological testing performed by study sites included lateral flow (STiC, Stago), enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), Asserachrom (HPIA IgG), PaGIA (BioRad), plus functional assays, primarily serotonin release assay (SRA) or platelet aggregation methods. The chemiluminescence procedure yielded a highly sensitive screening method for identifying functional HIT, given high area under the curve (AUC, generally ≥0.9) in a receiver operator characteristic (ROC) analysis against SRA as gold standard. ELISA testing resulted in lower ROC AUC scores (<0.8) and higher levels of false positives. Although there is clear association with the likelihood of HIT, the 4T score had less utility than literature suggests, and was comparable to a previous study reported by some of the authors.

Keywords: HIT diagnosis; Heparin induced thrombocytopenia; clinical scoring; laboratory testing.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / adverse effects
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / methods*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Heparin / adverse effects*
  • Heparin / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Laboratories, Hospital
  • Male
  • Platelet Aggregation
  • ROC Curve
  • Thrombocytopenia / diagnosis*
  • Thrombocytopenia / etiology
  • Thrombosis / chemically induced


  • Anticoagulants
  • Heparin