The antiphospholipid syndrome: what are we really measuring? How do we measure it? And how do we treat it?
The antiphospholipid syndrome is described with a review of its historical development as a recognized syndrome, what constitutes an antiphospholipid antibody, how it is measured, and how the syndrome is treated. Antiphospholipid antibodies are actually antibodies to a protein, most often beta-2-glycoprotein 1, that is usually bound to a phospholipid. Some antibodies are directed towards lipid-bound prothrombin. The antibodies are measured by immunologic assays or by antibody-dependent abnormalities detected in coagulation assays. Although they prolong coagulation assays, they are associated with a thrombotic tendency rather than a bleeding disorder. There are numerous postulated mechanisms to account for the thrombotic tendency. Patients with the antiphospholipid syndrome are treated with long-term oral anticoagulation to prolong the INR to 2.0 to 3.0. For most patients, a more intense level of treatment with a higher INR is not needed.
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