Spontaneous inhibitors to coagulation factors

D. Green*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Spontaneous inhibitors to coagulation factors are autoantibodies that usually appear in the elderly, but may also occur in patients with immunological disorders such as lupus, lymphoma, asthma or drug reactions. Most antibodies are directed against factor VIII, but any coagulation protein may be affected. They should be suspected in individuals who previously had normal haemostasis, but who now begin to experience bleeding into the skin and muscles, or suffer haemorrhages after routine procedures such as insertion of vascular catheters, intramuscular injections, or minor surgery. The haemostasis laboratory is critical in identifying the particular inhibitor and quantitating its potency. Factor VIII inhibitors prolong the partial thromboplastin time (PTT) but not the prothrombin time (PT), and incubating mixtures of patient plasma and normal plasma enhances the prolongation of the clotting time. The Bethesda assay provides a rough assessment of inhibitor potency. Inhibitors of von Willebrand factor prolong the bleeding time and impair ristocetin-induced platelet aggregation. Factor V inhibitors are associated with a prolonged PTT and PT, not correctable with normal plasma. Patients will often have a history of exposure to bovine thrombin in fibrin glue. The antibodies most difficult to recognize are those that alter fibrin polymerization or stabilization. Abnormal clot retraction or clot solubility in urea solutions are an important clue. The management of these disorders depends on characterization of the inhibitor, and using appropriate clotting factor concentrates to control acute bleeding. For example, recombinant human factor VIII or desmopressin may be effective for patients with low titre factor VIII inhibitors, whereas porcine factor VIII, recombinant factor VIIa, or prothrombin complex concentrates stem bleeding in those with high titres. Inhibitors of von Willebrand factor may be amenable to desmopressin, cryoprecipitate, or von Willebrand factor concentrates. Some patients with factor V inhibitors have responded to platelet transfusions, as the platelet factor V may be shielded from the autoantibody. Bleeding due to factor XIII inhibitors may be managed with fibrogammin, a factor XIII concentrate. All patients should be treated for underlying disorders and given drugs such as corticosteroids and cytotoxic agents to suppress inhibitor formation. Major advances in new immunosuppressive technologies, such as monoclonal B-cell antibodies, offer hope of more effective therapies for spontaneous inhibitors to coagulation factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-25
Number of pages5
JournalClinical and Laboratory Haematology, Supplement
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000


  • Anti-von Willebrand factor
  • Antifactor VIII
  • Antifactor XIII
  • Circulating anticoagulants
  • Clotting inhibitors
  • Coagulation autoantibodies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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