Misdiagnosis of Heparin Induced Thrombocytopenia (HIT)

Important Information on the Misdiagnosis of Heparin Induced Thrombocytopenia (HIT) from Experienced Florida Medical Malpractice Attorneys

Heparin induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) is a potentially life threatening reaction to heparin, the blood thinning drug commonly given to millions of hospital patients each year.  Designed to prevent clotting after invasive surgical procedures and to treat conditions such as acute coronary disorders and atrial fibrillation, the drug can, in some people, cause an immune-mediated reaction that activates platelets, the cells in our blood that form clots.

If not recognized and treated, patients with heparin-induced thrombocytopenia are at risk of developing serious complications, such as deep venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and myocardial infarction.  Unfortunately, HIT is too often missed and patients lives are threatened.

For families who have suffered the consequences of delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis of HIT, it is important to talk with experienced medical malpractice attorneys about your case.  You could be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering, and a good medical malpractice attorney can help you recover maximum compensation.

Recognizing the Symptoms of HIT

Thrombocytopenia is common in hospitalized patients, so the symptoms of HIT can go unheeded.  However, if a patient is being given heparin, symptoms such as lesions at injection sites, chills, fever, labored breathing, or chest pain, should be considered signals of possible HIT.

A blood test revealing a sharp decrease in platelets should support suspicions of heparin induced thrombocytopenia (HIT).  Additional tests can be administered to confirm a diagnosis of HIT; however, because delays can be fatal, doctors should not wait for complete confirmation before beginning treatment.

Diagnosing HIT

A preliminary diagnosis of HIT should be made based on clinical evidence for a patient on heparin with a drop in his or her platelet count of 30% or a drop of greater than 50% of his or her  baseline count.  To prevent a life-threatening thrombotic event, treatment should begin immediately, but the diagnosis should be confirmed with laboratory testing.

Several laboratory tests can be used to confirm a diagnosis of HIT, but it can take a few hours to a few days to get the results.  Experts actually recommend a combination of tests and multiple samples for the most accurate results.  These tests include measures of platelet activity as well as immune-enzymatic tests to detect the HIT antibody.

Treating HIT

The first line of treatment for HIT is to stop all use of heparin, including as an agent in flushing catheters.  If heparin use in any form is continued, the patient’s life could be endangered.

For the person with HIT, it is important to continue administering an anti-clotting drug because he or she is still in danger of getting clots.  Medical experts recommend a direct thrombin inhibitor (DTI) to prevent the production of thrombin, followed by warfarin, a common blood thinner, once the threat of thrombocytopenia is gone.   The length of time recommended for treatment with a blood thinner depends on the extent of the thrombocytopenia.

Talk with a Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney about Delayed Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis of Heparin Induced Thrombocytopenia

If HIT is not diagnosed and treated promptly, serious complications, including deep vein thrombosis (a blot clot in a vein inside a muscle), pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs), and myocardial infarction (heart attack) can occur.  If left untreated of if heparin use in some form is continued, HIT can be fatal.

Unfortunately, because so many patients who are hospitalized suffer from some form of thrombocytopenia, HIT is often overlooked, and heparin use is continued. If this has happened to you or someone in your family, talking with an experienced medical malpractice attorney about recovering compensation for your medical expenses and suffering is very important.

In cases of medical malpractice involving delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis of HIT, you’re entitled to hold the responsible healthcare providers accountable for their negligence and to receive just compensation  for your suffering.

Contact the experienced Florida medical malpractice attorneys at Paul & Perkins as soon as possible to discuss your case.


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Coutre, S. (2016). “Management of heparing induced thrombocytopenia.” Up to Date. http://www.uptodate.com/contents/management-of-heparin-induced-thrombocytopenia

Sancar E., MD, & Srikanth, N. (2016). “Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia treatment & management.”  Medscape.  http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1357846-treatment#d10