Assessment of platelet function in the laboratory
Oxford Haemophilia & Thrombosis Centre, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, UK
Platelet function testing is essential for the diagnosis of congenital/acquired bleeding disorders and may be useful for the prediction of surgical bleeding. Nowadays there is also much interest in monitoring the efficacy of anti-platelet therapy and measuring platelet hyper-function. However, this often presents clinical laboratories with significant challenges as platelet function tests are complex, poorly standardized, time consuming and quality assurance is not straightforward. There are also few comprehensive modern guidelines available and many recent published surveys have revealed poor standardization between laboratories. Up until the late 1980’s the traditional clinical platelet function tests that were available were the bleeding time (BT), light transmission (LTA) and whole blood aggregometry (WBA) and various biochemical assays. These were also usually performed within specialized research and clinical laboratories. Since the last BCSH guidelines were published in 1988 a variety of new platelet function tests have become available. These include flow cytometry and an ever increasing choice of new commercial instruments. Although the potential clinical utility of the new assays is emerging some have not yet entered into routine clinical practice. It is encouraging that a number of standardization committees (e. g. CLSI, BCSH and ISTH Platelet Physiology SSC) are now beginning to produce new platelet function testing guidelines and this will hopefully improve clinical practice, quality assurance and result in less variability between different laboratories.