IM Board Review

A 75-year-old with abdominal pain, hypoxia, and weak pulses in the left leg

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ANTIPHOSPHOLIPID ANTIBODIES ARE NOT ALL THE SAME

6. Which of the following antiphospholipid antibodies have not been associated with an increased thrombotic risk?

  • Anti-beta-2-glycoprotein I IgG
  • Lupus anticoagulant
  • Antiphosphatidylserine
  • Anticardiolipin IgM
  • Anticardiolipin IgG

The correct answer is antiphosphatidylserine. 15

Antiphospholipid antibodies are directed against a portion of select plasma proteins that are uncovered upon phospholipid binding. While lupus anticoagulant, anti-beta-2-glycoprotein I, and anticardiolipin antibodies are associated with thrombosis, antiprothrombin antibodies (including antiprothrombin and antiphosphatidylserine antibodies) are not. 15,21

PARADOXICAL EMBOLISM

Patent foramen ovale, a communication between the right and left atrium in the interatrial septum, is associated with an increased risk of paradoxical embolization. The prevalence of patent foramen ovale is estimated to be 27% to 29% in the general population. 22 Noncerebral systemic paradoxical embolism occurs less frequently than cerebral embolism, accounting for approximately 5% to 10% of paradoxical emboli. 22

To evaluate for patent foramen ovale, transthoracic echocardiography is performed with a bubble (agitated saline contrast) study to assess for interatrial shunting. Transesophageal echocardiography or transcranial Doppler bubble studies may also be performed.

Although patent foramen ovale is most commonly associated with cerebral embolism, peripheral emboli can occur. Some research suggests that this may be a more common cause of arterial thromboembolism in younger patients. There have also been reports of other sites of systemic embolization, including the renal artery. 12

Back to our patient

Initial antiphospholipid antibody testing was positive for lupus anticoagulant. Anticardiolipin and anti-beta-2-glycoprotein I antibodies were not detected.

Transesophageal echocardiography revealed a patent foramen ovale with a highly mobile atrial septum (atrial septal aneurysm).

The patient was treated with intravenous unfractionated heparin with bridging to warfarin with a target international normalized ratio (INR) of 2 to 3. His renal artery infarction and his lower-extremity arterial thromboembolic event were conservatively managed. His respiratory status improved, and he no longer required supplemental oxygen. His creatinine peaked at 1.7 mg/dL during his admission and improved to 1.2 mg/dL before he was discharged.

At follow-up, repeat echocardiography showed that his right ventricular systolic pressure had improved (decreased) to 37 mm Hg from 54 mm Hg. Repeat confirmatory testing was positive for lupus anticoagulant 12 weeks later. He has been maintained on warfarin with an INR goal of 2 to 3 as well as low-dose aspirin with plans for long-term anticoagulation. We decided to keep the patient on anticoagulation indefinitely with warfarin; he was not a candidate for a direct oral anticoagulant, given limited data on the use of these agents in the setting of lupus anticoagulant and antiphospholipid antibody syndrome.

SUMMARY OF CASE

In summary, this patient was a 75-year-old man with COPD who presented with abdominal pain. He was noted to have a left renal infarction, extensive unprovoked lower-extremity deep vein thrombosis with pulmonary emboli, and lower limb arterial thromboembolism.

He also had an underlying hypercoagulable state—antiphospholipid antibody syndrome—that predisposed him to both arterial and venous thrombosis. He was ultimately found to have a patent foramen ovale, which further increased the risk of arterial thrombosis by facilitating paradoxical embolization of venous thrombi. It is not certain whether the renal infarction and leg artery thrombi were due to paradoxical embolism or to in situ thrombosis, but we believe that it was most likely paradoxical embolization. 

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