Heparin-induced Thrombocytopenia

What is heparin-induced thrombocytopenia?

Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) is a condition that causes a decrease of platelets in the blood. Platelets help the blood clot. HIT usually occurs after you are treated with heparin.

What increases my risk for HIT?

  • Recent surgery, especially heart or bone surgery

  • An IV or central line that is flushed with heparin or coated with heparin

  • A type of heparin used from cows or pigs

  • Taking heparin for more than 4 days

  • Female gender

What are the signs and symptoms of HIT?

  • Pain, redness, and swelling of an arm or leg

  • Bruise-like discoloration of your skin

  • A rash or sore where a heparin shot was given

  • Weakness, numbness, or problems moving your arms or legs

How is HIT diagnosed?

Tell your healthcare provider if you have been treated with heparin. He will ask when you were treated with it and for how long. You may need any of the following tests:

  • Blood tests will show how many platelets are in your blood. You may need blood tests every 2 to 3 days.

  • An immunoassay test will show if you have HIT.

How is HIT treated?

All heparin treatments will stop, including heparin flushes and catheters coated with heparin. You may need any of the following:

  • Anticoagulants are a type of blood thinner medicine that helps prevent clots. Clots can cause strokes, heart attacks, and death. These medicines may cause you to bleed or bruise more easily.

    • Watch for bleeding from your gums or nose. Watch for blood in your urine and bowel movements. Use a soft washcloth and a soft toothbrush. If you shave, use an electric razor. Avoid activities that can cause bruising or bleeding.

    • Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines you take because many medicines cannot be used with anticoagulants. Do not start or stop any medicines unless your healthcare provider tells you to. Tell your dentist and other caregivers that you take anticoagulants. Wear a bracelet or necklace that says you take this medicine.

    • You will need regular blood tests so your healthcare provider can decide how much medicine you need. Take anticoagulants exactly as directed. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you forget to take the medicine, or if you take too much.

    • If you take warfarin, some foods can change how your blood clots. Do not make major changes to your diet while you take warfarin. Warfarin works best when you eat about the same amount of vitamin K every day. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, grapes, and other foods. Ask for more information about what to eat when you take warfarin.

  • Antiplatelets , such as aspirin, help prevent blood clots. Take your antiplatelet medicine exactly as directed. These medicines make it more likely for you to bleed or bruise. If you are told to take aspirin, do not take acetaminophen or ibuprofen instead.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.

  • You have numbness in your arms or legs.

  • You have severe pain in your arms or legs that does not go away.

  • You have trouble standing and walking.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.

  • You cough up blood.

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:

    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest that lasts longer than 5 minutes or returns

    • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm

    • Trouble breathing

    • Nausea or vomiting

    • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat, especially with chest pain or trouble breathing

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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