Antiphospholipid syndrome: laboratory testing and diagnostic strategies.
The antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is diagnosed in patients with recurrent thromboembolic events and/or pregnancy loss in the presence of persistent laboratory evidence for antiphospholipid antibodies. Diagnostic tests for the detection of antiphospholipid antibodies include laboratory assays that detect anticardiolipin antibodies, lupus anticoagulants, and anti-β(2)-glycoprotein I antibodies. These assays have their origins beginning >60 years ago, with the identification of the biologic false positive test for syphilis, the observation of "circulating anticoagulants" in certain patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, the identification of cardiolipin as a key component in the serologic test for syphilis, and the recognition and characterization of a "cofactor" for antibody binding to phospholipids. Although these assays have been used clinically for many years, there are still problems with the accurate diagnosis of patients with this syndrome. For example, lupus anticoagulant testing can be difficult to interpret in patients receiving anticoagulant therapy, but most patients with a thromboembolic event will already be anticoagulated before the decision to perform the tests has been made. In addition to understanding limitations of the assays, clinicians also need to be aware of which patients should be tested and not obtain testing on patients unlikely to have APS. New tests and diagnostic strategies are in various stages of development and should help improve our ability to accurately diagnose this important clinical disorder.
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