How I treat refractory thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura

Blood. 2015 Jun 18;125(25):3860-7. doi: 10.1182/blood-2014-11-551580. Epub 2015 Mar 17.


Acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) is characterized by thrombocytopenia and microangiopathic hemolytic anemia (MAHA) without an obvious cause, and may include fever, mild renal failure, and neurologic deficits. It is characterized by a deficiency of the von Willebrand factor (VWF) cleaving enzyme, ADAMTS13 (a disintegrin and metalloproteinase, with a thrombospondin type 1 motif, member 13), resulting in formation of microthrombi in the high sheer environment of the microvasculature. This causes microvascular occlusion, MAHA, and organ ischemia. Diagnosis is based on the presence of clinical symptoms, laboratory aberrations consistent with MAHA, decreased ADAMTS13 activity, and possibly presence of anti-ADAMTS13 autoantibodies. Upfront treatment of acute TTP includes plasma exchange and corticosteroids. A significant number of patients are refractory to this treatment and will require further interventions. There are limited data and consensus on the management of the refractory TTP patient. Management involves simultaneously ruling out other causes of thrombocytopenia and MAHA, while also considering other treatments. In this article, we describe our management of the patient with refractory TTP, and discuss use of rituximab, increased plasma exchange, splenectomy, and immunosuppressive options, including cyclophosphamide, vincristine, and cyclosporine. We also review recent evidence for the potential roles of bortezomib and N-acetylcysteine, and explore new therapeutic approaches, including recombinant ADAMTS13 and anti-VWF therapy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Drug Resistance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Purpura, Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic / therapy*