Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter August 1, 2012

EDTA-dependent pseudothrombocytopenia: further insights and recommendations for prevention of a clinically threatening artifact

Giuseppe Lippi and Mario Plebani


Ethylenediaminetetra-acetic acid (EDTA) is widely used as anticoagulant in laboratory medicine. EDTA-dependent pseudothrombocytopenia is a rare phenomenon (i.e., around 0.1% in the general population), which is mostly due to the presence of EDTA-dependent antiplatelet antibodies that react optimally between 0°C and 4°C, recognize the cytoadhesive receptors gpIIb-IIIa, stimulate the expression of activation antigens, trigger activation of tyrosine kinase, platelet agglutination and clumping in vitro, which finally lead to a spuriously decreased platelet count. The reliable and timely identification of this artifact is essential, since there a high chance that it may be confused with other life-threatening platelet disorders, or otherwise lead to inappropriate clinical and therapeutic decision-making. Five basic criteria should be fulfilled to raise the clinical suspicion of EDTA-dependent pseudothrombocytopenia, i.e., (i) abnormal platelet count, typically <100×109/L; (ii) occurrence of thrombocytopenia in EDTA-anticoagulated samples at room temperature, but to a much lesser extent in samples collected with other anticoagulants and/or kept warmed at ∼37°C; (iii) time-dependent fall of platelet count in the EDTA specimen; (iv) evidence of platelet aggregates and clumps in EDTA-anticoagulated samples with either automated cell counting or microscopic analysis; (v) lack of signs or symptoms of platelet disorders. Several remedies have been proposed, such as warming the sample to 37°C or using additives or specific formulations of anticoagulants including buffered sodium citrate, heparin, ammonium oxalate, β-hydroxyethyltheophylline, sodium fluoride, CPT (trisodium citrate, pyridoxal 5′-phosphate and Tris), antiplatelet agents, potassium azide, amikacin, kanamycin or other aminoglycosides, and calcium replacement with the simultaneous addition of calcium chloride/heparin. According to available evidences, the most suitable and practical approach so far for most clinical laboratories seems, however, the recollection of blood samples using sodium citrate, CPT or calcium chloride/heparin as additives, maintaining the specimen at 37°C until the platelet count has been completed.

Corresponding author: Prof. Mario Plebani, CCLM Editor in Chief, Department of Laboratory Medicine, University-Hospital of Padova, Via Giustiniani 2, 35128 Padova, Italy Phone: + 39 498212792, Fax: + 39 49663240

Published Online: 2012-08-01
Published in Print: 2012-08-01

©2012 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston