AIMS: We conducted a survey of laboratory practice for assessment of heparin anticoagulant therapy by participants of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia Quality Assurance Program (RCPA QAP).
METHODS: A questionnaire was sent to 646 laboratories enrolled in the Haematology component of the QAP, requesting details of tests used for monitoring heparin therapy.
RESULTS: Seventy laboratories (10.8%) returned results that indicated that they performed laboratory monitoring of heparin therapy. Most laboratories (69/70 = 98.6%) use the activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT) to monitor unfractionated heparin, with eight (11.4%) also using the APTT for monitoring low molecular weight (LMW) heparin. Five (7.1%) laboratories use the thrombin time (TT) test to help monitor heparin therapy and 37 (52.9%) laboratories use an anti-Xa assay to monitor heparin (either LMW or unfractionated). Normal reference ranges (NRR) for APTT differed considerably between laboratories, even those using the same reagent. Therapeutic ranges (TR) also differed considerably between laboratories, for both APTT and the anti-Xa assay. Laboratory differences in NRR and TR using the same reagents could only be partly explained by the use of different instrumentation.
CONCLUSIONS: There is a large variation in current laboratory practice relating to monitoring of heparin anticoagulant therapy. This finding is similar to that of a similar survey conducted by the RCPA QAP almost a decade ago. This study suggests that better standardisation is still required for laboratory monitoring of heparin therapy.