Thrombosis and the antiphospholipid syndrome.
The antiphospholipid syndrome is an antibody-mediated hypercoagulable state characterized by recurrent venous and arterial thromboembolic events. Several studies have determined that the frequency of antiphospholipid syndrome in patients presenting with a venous thromboembolic event is between 4% and 14%. Because of the high risk for recurrent thromboembolism in these patients, current recommendations suggest a longer, potentially lifelong, course of antithrombotic therapy following an initial event. Although most authorities agree on an extended course of therapy, considerable controversy surrounds the optimal target therapeutic INR for patients with antiphospholipid syndrome. For an initial venous thromboembolic event, a target INR of 2.0 to 3.0 is supported by two prospective, randomized clinical trials. In contrast, relatively limited data exist for an initial arterial thromboembolic event in patients who have the antiphospholipid syndrome, and therapeutic recommendations range from aspirin to warfarin with a high target INR. Recurrent thromboembolic events can be extremely difficult to treat, and some patients may benefit from the addition of immunosuppressive therapies. Importantly, as many as 50% of the initial thromboembolic events sustained by patients with antiphospholipid antibodies occur in the setting of additional, coincident prothrombotic risk factors, indicating the importance of addressing any additional risk factors, such as hypercholesterolemia, in these patients. Prospective studies are needed to address the role of thromboprophylactic strategies in asymptomatic individuals with antiphospholipid antibodies in the absence of additional risk factors.
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