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Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia

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Summary

Thrombocytopenia is a frequent and sometimes insidious complication of anticoagulant therapy with heparin. Two types of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia with a distinct aetiology have been recognized. Type I is characterized by a mild thrombocytopenia of early onset which requires careful monitoring but usually not the cessation of heparin therapy. The mild thrombocytopenia is probably due to the mild pro-aggregatory properties of heparin and can be more severe in the presence of other predisposing factors, e.g. sepsis. Type II heparin-induced thrombocytopenia is more severe and usually occurs after a period of 7–10 days. Heparin therapy should be ceased immediately and other anticoagulant therapy initiated. The thrombocytopenia is believed to be due to the development of a heparin-dependent antibody that causes platelet aggregation and release. The precise mechanism of heparin-dependent antibody-platelet interaction is still not entirely clear but probably involves the binding of an antibody-heparin immune complex to the platelet Fc receptor.

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Chong, B.H., Berndt, M.C. Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia. Blut 58, 53–57 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00320647

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