Activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT) (UFH monitoring)

The activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT) is a screening test which isolates the 'intrinsic' and 'common' pathways of the in vitro coagulation cascade model. Coagulation factors and cofactors within each pathway operate in concert to generate a fibrin clot end-point, the time taken to form the clot being the APTT.

Patient plasma is first incubated with a contact activator to activate FXII and commence the intrinsic pathway. Although not a significant reaction in vivo with respect to bleeding, the activated FXII (FXIIa) activates FXI independently of thrombin, which proceeds to activate FIX independently of FVIIa/TF. FIXa generates FXa to begin the 'common' pathway which generates thrombin via the prothrombinase complex to form a fibrin clot. The APTT reagent also contains the 'partial' thromboplastin, comprising phospholipid but not tissue factor, which facilitates reactions involving the vitamin K dependent factors of both pathways but excludes FVII. The process of timing to clot formation begins upon the addition of calcium ions to replace those removed by the tri-sodium citrate anticoagulant and thereby facilitate functioning tenase and prothrombinase complexes.

Our routine APTT reagent, used on automated analysers employing photo-optical clot detection, is lupus anticoagulant insensitive. For rare occasions where interfering factors compromise APTT analysis on the automated analysers, we have an alternative reagent used on a semi-manual coagulometer employing a mechanical clot-detection technique.
Clinical details: 
Unfractionated heparin (UFH) is a parenteral anticoagulant used for treatment and prophylaxis of venous thrombosis disorders. Its main mechanism of action is through binding to antithrombin, which leads to a conformational change that potentiates antithrombin activty up to 1000-fold. Bioavailability of UFH varies with dose, and also between individuals because it binds to plasma proteins, platelet factor-4, macrophages, fibrinogen, lipoproteins, and endothelial cells.

APTT is the most commonly used test for UFH monitoring. Between-reagent variability exists for the sensitivity of APTT reagents to the UFH anticoagulant effect
Reference range: 

Therapeutic range: 1.5 - 2.5 (ratio)

Sample type and Volume required: 
External requests: Citrated platelet poor plasma
800µL x 1 aliquot
Internal requests: please refer to EPR label
Turnaround time: 
4 hours
Special sample instructions: 

The sample should be analysed within 4 hours of venepuncture. Please ensure sample tubes are filled exactly to the fill-line as underfilling creates a dilution error and leads to inaccurate results.

Diagnostic Haemostasis and Thrombosis Department
St Thomas': 020 7188 2797; Guy's: 020 7188 7188 ext. 53860
St Thomas' Hospital
North Wing - 4th and 5th Floors
Westminster Bridge Road
London SE1 7EH

Laboratory opening times

Guy's Hospital
Southwark Wing - 4th Floor
Great Maze Pond
London SE1 9RT

Outside core hours, contact Duty Haemostasis Biomedical Scientist
For clinical advice or interpretation of results, please contact the laboratory in the first instance.

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Last updated: 10/11/2021