Background: Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) is a thrombotic disorder usually prompting treatment with non-heparin anticoagulants. The benefits and risks of such treatments have not been fully assessed. Methods: We analyzed data for 442 patients having a positive heparin-platelet factor 4 antibody test and recent heparin exposure. The primary outcome was a composite endpoint (death, limb amputation/gangrene, or new thrombosis). Secondary outcomes included bleeding and the effect of anticoagulation. Findings: Seventy-one patients (16%) had HIT with thrombosis (HIT-T); 284 (64%) had HIT without thrombosis (isolated HIT); 87 (20%) did not have HIT. An intermediate or high “4T” score was found in 85%, 58%, and 8% of the three respective groups. Non-heparin anticoagulation was begun in 80%, 56%, and 45%. The composite endpoint occurred in 48%, 36%, and 17% (P =.01) of which 61%, 38%, and 40% were receiving non-heparin anticoagulation. Compared with the no HIT group, the composite endpoint was significantly more likely in HIT-T [HR 2.48 (1.35-4.55), P =.003)] and marginally more likely in isolated HIT [HR 1.66 (0.96-2.85), P =.071]. Importantly, risk increased (HR 1.77, P =.02) after platelet transfusion. Major bleeding occurred in 48%, 36%, and 16% of the three groups (P =.005). Non-heparin anticoagulation was not associated with a reduction in composite endpoint events in either HIT group. Interpretation: HIT patients have high risks of death, limb amputation/gangrene, thrombosis, and bleeding. Non-heparin anticoagulant treatment may not benefit all patients and should be considered only after careful assessment of the relative risks of thrombosis and bleeding in individual patients.
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