JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Antiphospholipid syndrome

Sefer Gezer
Disease-a-month: DM 2003, 49 (12): 696-741
14679358
Antiphospholipid syndrome has received considerable attention from the medical community because of its association with a number of serious clinical disorders, including arterial and venous thromboembolism, acute ischemic encephalopathy, recurrent pregnancy loss, thrombocytopenia, and livido reticularis. It can occur within the context of several diseases, mainly autoimmune disorders, and is then called secondary antiphospholipid syndrome. However, it may be also be present without any recognizable disease, or so-called primary antiphospholipid syndrome. There is no defined racial predominance for primary antiphospholipid syndrome, although a higher prevalence of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) occurs in African Americans and the Hispanic population. Multiple terms exist for this syndrome, some of which can be confusing. Lupus anticoagulant syndrome, for example, is a misleading term, because patients may not necessarily have SLE, and it is associated with thrombotic rather than hemorrhagic complications. To avoid further confusion, antiphospholipid syndrome is currently the preferred term for this clinical syndrome. Antiphospholipid antibodies are found in 1% to 5% of young healthy control subjects; however, the incidence increases with age and coexistent chronic disease. The syndrome occurs most commonly in young to middle-aged adults; however, it also can occur in children and the elderly. Among patients with SLE, the prevalence of antiphospholipid antibodies is high, ranging from 12% to 30% for anticardiolipin antibodies, and 15% to 34% for lupus anticoagulant antibodies. In general, anticardiolipin antibodies occur approximately five times more often then lupus anticoagulant in patients with antiphospholipid syndrome. This syndrome is the most common cause of acquired thrombophilia, associated with either venous or arterial thrombosis or both. It is characterized by the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies, recurrent arterial and venous thrombosis, and spontaneous abortion. Rarely, patients with antiphospholipid syndrome may have fulminate multiple organ failure, or catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome. This is caused by widespread microthrombi in multiple vascular beds, and can be devastating. Patients with catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome may have massive venous thromboembolism, along with respiratory failure, stroke, abnormal liver enzyme concentrations, renal impairment, adrenal insufficiency, and areas of cutaneous infarction. According to the international consensus statement, at least one clinical criterion (vascular thrombosis, pregnancy complications) and one laboratory criterion (lupus anticoagulant, antipcardiolipin antibodies) should be present for a diagnosis of antiphospholipid syndrome. The hallmark result from laboratory tests that defines antiphospholipid syndrome is the presence of antibodies or abnormalities in phospholipid-dependent tests of coagulation, such as dilute Russell viper venom time. There is no consensus for treatment among physicians. Overall, there is general agreement that patients with recurrent thrombotic episodes require life-long anticoagulation therapy and that those with recurrent spontaneous abortion require anticoagulation therapy and low- dose aspirin therapy during most of gestation. Prophylactic anticoagulation therapy is not justified in patients with high titer anticardiolipin antibodies with no history of thrombosis. However, if a history of recurrent deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism is established, long-term anticoagulant therapy with international normalized ratio (INR) of approximately 3 is needed.

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