Objective: To evaluate platelet function in sepsis.
Data sources: The MEDLINE database and bibliographies of selected articles.
Data synthesis: The common occurrence of thrombocytopenia in critically ill patients has been recognized for many years and is known to be associated with an increased mortality rate. Platelet function can be divided into four areas: activation, adhesion, aggregation, and secretion. Studies have found that activated platelets secrete key components of the coagulation and inflammatory cascades and are involved in the regulation of vascular tone. However, studies on platelet function in sepsis have been scarce, and their data are often conflicting. In sepsis, aggregation of circulating platelets seems to be reduced, yet platelet receptors are present in normal amounts.
Conclusions: Platelets play a complex role in sepsis; they are able to modulate not only their own function but also that of cells around them. Further study is needed to better define the precise mechanisms and effects of platelet activation in sepsis and to determine the benefits and risks of inhibiting platelet function.