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, 12 (1), 35-41

Platelet Transfusion in the Management of Severe Thrombocytopenia in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Patients

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Platelet Transfusion in the Management of Severe Thrombocytopenia in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Patients

N A Murray et al. Transfus Med.

Abstract

Platelet transfusions are frequently given to neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) patients with severe thrombocytopenia (platelets less than 50 x 10(9) L(-1)) but no study has assessed whether this is clinically appropriate. To address this we conducted a retrospective review of platelet transfusion practice in patients developing severe thrombocytopenia over 3 years in a single NICU. Out of 901 admissions, 53 (6%) developed severe thrombocytopenia. Twenty-seven neonates received a total of 63 platelet transfusions, the main triggers being: platelet count less than 30 x 10(9) L(-1) (all patients), or less than 50 x 10(9) L(-1) in those with previous haemorrhage or clinical instability. No major haemorrhage occurred during severe thrombocytopenia either in neonates in whom platelet transfusions were withheld (26/53) or in neonates given platelets who survived to discharge (22/27). Five preterm neonates given platelets died but all had overwhelming sepsis or necrotizing enterocolitis and none died directly as a result of haemorrhage. Although the widely used liberal triggers for neonatal platelet transfusion highlighted in this review reflect available guidelines, and represent cautious ('safe') haemostatic practice, they are likely to result in unnecessary transfusion for a significant number of NICU patients. Improved practice requires definition of a safe lower limit for platelet count in stable neonates; effective platelet transfusion strategies for sick neonates; and improved therapies for conditions precipitating severe thrombocytopenia.

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