A case of EDTA-dependent pseudothrombocytopenia: simple recognition of an underdiagnosed and misleading phenomenon

BMC Clin Pathol. 2014 May 1;14:19. doi: 10.1186/1472-6890-14-19. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

Background: EDTA-dependent pseudothrombocytopenia (EDTA-PTCP) is a common laboratory phenomenon with a prevalence ranging from 0.1-2% in hospitalized patients to 15-17% in outpatients evaluated for isolated thrombocytopenia. Despite its harmlessness, EDTA-PTCP frequently leads to time-consuming, costly and even invasive diagnostic investigations. EDTA-PTCP is often overlooked because blood smears are not evaluated visually in routine practice and histograms as well as warning flags of hematology analyzers are not interpreted correctly. Nonetheless, EDTA-PTCP may be diagnosed easily even by general practitioners without any experiences in blood film examinations. This is the first report illustrating the typical patterns of a platelet (PLT) and white blood cell (WBC) histograms of hematology analyzers.

Case presentation: A 37-year-old female patient of Caucasian origin was referred with suspected acute leukemia and the crew of the emergency unit arranged extensive investigations for work-up. However, examination of EDTA blood sample revealed atypical lymphocytes and an isolated thrombocytopenia together with typical patterns of WBC and PLT histograms: a serrated curve of the platelet histogram and a peculiar peak on the left side of the WBC histogram. EDTA-PTCP was confirmed by a normal platelet count when examining citrated blood.

Conclusion: Awareness of typical PLT and WBC patterns may alert to the presence of EDTA-PTCP in routine laboratory practice helping to avoid unnecessary investigations and over-treatment.

Keywords: Hematology analyzers; Laboratory hematology; Thrombocytopenia.

Publication types

  • Case Reports