The tests currently employed within most haemostasis laboratories to monitor anticoagulant therapy largely comprise the prothrombin time (PT)/ International Normalised Ratio (INR) and the activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT). These are respectively used to monitor Vitamin K antagonists (VKAs) such as warfarin, and unfractionated heparin. Additional tests that laboratories may also employ for assessing or monitoring unfractionated heparin include thrombin time (TT) and the anti-Xa assay, which can also be used to monitor low molecular weight heparin. Several new anti-thrombotic agents have recently emerged, or are in the final process of clinical evaluation. These novel drugs that include Dabigatran etexilate and Rivaroxaban would not theoretically require monitoring; however, testing is useful in specific situations. The tests currently used to monitor VKAs and heparin are typically either too sensitive or too insensitive to the new drugs to be used as 'typically performed in laboratories', and may thus require some methodological adjustments to increase or decrease their sensitivity. Alternately, different tests may be better employed in these assessments. Whatever the case, laboratories may soon be performing a reduced or possibly increased number of tests, the same kind of tests but perhaps differently, or conceivably different assay panels. Specific laboratory guidance on the choice of the appropriate test to be ordered according to the drug being administered, as well as on appropriate interpretation of test results, will also be necessary. The current report reviews the current state of play and provides a glimpse to the possible future of the coagulation laboratory.
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