Lupus Anticoagulant

Other names: Lupus Inhibitor; LA

Lupus anticoagulant is a form of protein, which increases the risk of blood clots forming in the veins and arteries; this can potentially be very dangerous and even life threatening, as the clots can block the flow of blood around the body. Blood clots can cause deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism and a heart attack.

The lupus anticoagulant protein is not an inherited condition; it is found most commonly in patients with autoimmune diseases or disease that affect the immune system, including HIV. Despite the name, the test is not a diagnostic test for patients who are suspected of having lupus; the test gets its name because the anticoagulant was first found in patients with SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus). Experts estimate that around 1-2% of the population are affected with the lupus anticoagulant condition.

When is the test used?

The test is primarily used to try and determine the cause of an unexplained thrombosis; it may also be used when a female patient has lost a baby and they have already suffered foetal losses before. The test is usually ordered when a patient has a prolonged aPTT test result (this test measures the speed of the clotting process) or an unexplained thrombosis.

The test is usually ordered when a patient has had recurrent miscarriages, an unexplained thrombosis or a prolonged aPTT test result.

The doctor may also order the lupus anticoagulant test when a patient has an autoimmune disease, to see if they have acquired the lupus anticoagulant condition.

How is the test carried out?

The test is done by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm; the blood is drawn out and collected in a syringe. Once the doctor or nurse has a sufficient sample, they will place the blood in a sample bottle, label it with the patient’s name and send it away to the laboratory for evaluation.

What do the test results mean?

If the aPTT test result is prolonged, this is usually due to either heparin contamination or lupus anticoagulant. If the aPTT test result is not abnormal but the patient still has symptoms, lupus anticoagulant may be present but the concentration may be too low for the test to identify; a more sensitive test may be ordered if this is the case. There are several other tests which can be carried out to test for lupus anticoagulant.

Specific Blood Tests

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