JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

The antiphospholipid syndrome: still an enigma

Shruti Chaturvedi, Keith R McCrae
Hematology—the Education Program of the American Society of Hematology 2015, 2015: 53-60
26637701
Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is defined by clinical manifestations that include thrombosis and/or fetal loss or pregnancy morbidity in patients with antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL). Antiphospholipid antibodies are among the most common causes of acquired thrombophilia, but unlike most of the genetic thrombophilias are associated with both venous and arterial thrombosis. Despite an abundance of clinical and basic research on aPL, a unified mechanism that explains their prothrombotic activity has not been defined; this may reflect the heterogeneity of aPL and/or the fact that they may influence multiple pro- and/or antithrombotic pathways. Antiphospholipid antibodies are directed primarily toward phospholipid binding proteins rather than phospholipid per se, with the most common antigenic target being β2-glycoprotein 1 (β2GPI) although antibodies against other targets such as prothrombin are well described. Laboratory diagnosis of aPL depends upon the detection of a lupus anticoagulant (LA), which prolongs phospholipid-dependent anticoagulation tests, and/or anticardiolipin and anti-β2-glycoprotein 1 antibodies. Indefinite anticoagulation remains the mainstay of therapy for thrombotic APS, although new strategies that may improve outcomes are emerging. Preliminary reports suggest caution in the use of direct oral anticoagulants in patients with APS-associated thrombosis. Based on somewhat limited evidence, aspirin and low molecular weight heparin are recommended for obstetrical APS. There remains a pressing need for better understanding of the pathogenesis of APS in humans, for identification of clinical and laboratory parameters that define patients at greatest risk for APS-related events, and for targeted treatment of this common yet enigmatic disorder.

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