Paradoxic effect of multiple mild coagulation factor deficiencies on the prothrombin time and activated partial thromboplastin time

E. R. Burns, S. N. Goldberg, B. Wenz

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Single coagulation factor deficiencies predictably prolong the prothrombin time (PT) and activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT) at levels below 35% of normal activity. Acquired coagulopathies generally are characterized by multiple coagulation factor deficiencies. The effect was studied of such combined deficiencies on the PT/APTT using plasma from patients congenitally deficient in specific factors and pooled normal plasma. The PT begins to lengthen when individual factor levels fall below 25%. The APTT becomes prolonged when the levels of Factor V fall below 45%; the levels of Factors II and XI fall below 40%; and the levels of Factors I, V, VII, VIII, IX, and XII fall below 25% of normal. When plasma samples containing 50% activity of a single factor and 100% of all other factors were prepared by mixing the congenitally deficient plasma samples with the normal pool, the resulting mixtures had normal PT and APTT values. However, when two of these 50% factor-deficient plasmas were combined so that the mixture contained 75% activity of two coagulation factors and 100% of all other factors, the resulting PT and APTT were prolonged over the clotting times of either 50% factor-deficient plasma. Similar findings were obtained in patients with mild factor reductions caused by warfarin treatment. These data indicate that prolongations of the PT and APTT in disorders of coagulation affecting multiple factors represent less of a reduction in factor levels than is generally appreciated. This may explain the poor clinical correlation between abnormalities in these test results and clinical bleeding in acquired disorders of hemostasis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-98
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican journal of clinical pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1993



  • Activated Partial Thromboplastin Time
  • Coagulation
  • Hemostasis
  • Prothrombin time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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