Background and methods: Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura-hemolytic uremic syndrome (TTP-HUS) is characterized by microangiopathic hemolytic anemia, thrombocytopenia, fever, central nervous system abnormalities, and renal dysfunction. In early reports the mortality approached 100 percent. A treatment protocol was introduced in 1979 for patients admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital with the diagnosis of TTP-HUS. Treatment regimens included 200 mg of prednisone a day, for patients with minimal symptoms and no central nervous system symptoms, and prednisone plus plasma exchange, for patients with rapid clinical deterioration who did not improve after 48 hours of prednisone alone and for patients presenting with central nervous system symptoms and rapidly declining hematocrit values and platelet counts.
Results: A total of 108 patients were treated, and 91 percent survived. Prednisone alone was judged to be effective in 30 patients with mild TTP-HUS (two relapses and two deaths). Plasma exchange plus prednisone was given to 78 patients with complicated TTP-HUS, resulting in 67 relapses and 8 deaths. Relapses occurred in 22 of 36 patients given maintenance plasma infusions. Neither splenectomy nor treatment with aspirin and dipyridamole was effective in those with a poor response to plasma exchange. None of the 71 patients tested had positive cultures for O157:H7 Escherichia coli. Nine percent of the patients were pregnant, and none gave birth to infants with TTP-HUS.
Conclusions: Effective treatment with 91 percent survival is available for patients with TTP-HUS.