Differentiating thrombotic microangiopathies induced by severe hypertension from anemia and thrombocytopenia seen in thrombotic thrombocytopenia purpura

J Clin Apher. 2004;19(3):125-9. doi: 10.1002/jca.20016.


Thrombotic microangiopathy (TMA) is a recognized complication of malignant hypertension (HTN). Such patients have blood pressures > or = 200/140 mmHg but the condition is defined by the presence of papilledema and is frequently complicated by acute renal failure. Here we report two patients with severe HTN (systolic > or = 180 mmHg or diastolic > or = 120 mmHg), TMA, thrombocytopenia, renal failure, and, in one case, neurological changes (4 of 5 manifestations of the TTP pentad). A 50-year-old male with HTN presented with blurred vision, dizziness, headache, confusion, renal failure, and a TMA (PLT = 39 x 10(9)/L and LD = 2,781 normal <600 U/L). On presentation, BP was 214/133 mmHg and an ophthalmic exam demonstrated no papilledema. With HTN control over 7 days, his platelet count rebounded (220 x 10(9)/L), LD declined (1,730 U/L), and mental status improved. A 60-year-old female with diabetes, HTN, Lupus erythematosus, mild chronic anemia, and thrombocytopenia presented with abdominal pain, shortness of breath, renal failure, and a TMA (PLT = 83 x 10(9)/L and LD = 2,929 U/L). Blood pressures were 180-210/89-111 mmHg and ophthalmic exam demonstrated no papilledema. With HTN control over 8 days, her platelet count rebounded (147 x 10(9)/L), and LD declined (1,624 U/L). Although in both cases a diagnosis of TTP was considered because of overlap with the classic diagnostic pentad, neither received plasmapheresis. TTP is a diagnosis of exclusion, where there is no other likely diagnosis to explain the TMA. In cases of severe HTN (with or without papilledema), the diagnosis of TTP should be held in abeyance until the effect of HTN control can be assessed.

MeSH terms

  • Anemia / diagnosis*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Purpura, Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic / diagnosis*
  • Thrombocytopenia / diagnosis*
  • Thrombosis / diagnosis*