Recurrent thrombosis and miscarriages are the main clinical manifestations of antiphospholipid syndrome (APS). Although most patients display both clinical signs, some patients can have isolated vascular or obstetric variants. Emerging data raise the question of whether obstetric and vascular APS are the same or different diseases. An important difference between the two conditions is that a thrombophilic state is a common feature in vascular APS, whereas clot occlusions of the decidual spiral arteries are seldom observed in obstetric APS, and infarctions are found in only one-third of APS placentae. Conversely, inflammation, which is undetectable in vascular APS, is frequently observed in the placentae of patients with obstetric APS and has been documented in the placentae of pregnant mice with fetal loss mediated by antiphospholipid antibodies. Attempts to identify different antibodies or epitopes responsible for the two clinical manifestations of APS have so far been unsuccessful. Possible mechanisms exist that might explain the development of the two clinical presentations, including the tissue distribution and expression level of the main target antigen of antiphospholipid antibodies, β2 glycoprotein I (β2GPI). The identification of the factors that promote the onset of either obstetric or vascular APS has important diagnostic and therapeutic implications.
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