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Catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome, CAPS, also known as Asherson’s syndrome, is an acute and complex biological process that leads to occlusion of small vessels of various organs. It was first described by Ronald Asherson in 1992. The syndrome exhibits thrombotic microangiopathy, multiple organ thrombosis, and in some cases tissue necrosis and is considered an extreme or catastrophic variant of the antiphospholipid syndrome.
CAPS has a mortality rate of about 50%. With the establishment of a CAPS-Registry more has been learned about this syndrome, yet the cause remains elusive. Infection, trauma, medication, or surgery can be identified in about half the cases as a “trigger”. It is thought that cytokines are activated leading to a cytokine storm with the potentially fatal consequences of organ failure. Thrombocytopenia is a common finding. Patients exhibit a positive test to antilipid antibodies, typically IgG, and may or may not have a history of lupus or another connective tissue disease Association with another disease such as lupus is called a secondary APS unless it includes the defining criteria for CAPS.
Clinically, the syndrome affects at least three organs and may affect many organs systems. Peripheral thrombosis may be encountered affecting veins and arteries. Intraabdominal thrombosis may lead to pain. Cardiovascular, nervous, heart, renal and pulmonary system complications are common. The patient may exhibit skin purpura and necrosis. Cerebral manifestations may lead to encephalopathy and seizures. Myocardial infarctions may occur. Strokes may occur due to the arterial clotting involvement. Death may result from multiple organ failure.
Treatments may involve the following steps: