Mechanisms and management of coagulopathy in acute promyelocytic leukemia

Thromb Res. 2018 Apr:164 Suppl 1:S82-S88. doi: 10.1016/j.thromres.2018.01.041.


Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is a subtype of leukemia which is associated with unique and distinctive coagulopathy. In the absence of treatment it is rapidly fatal and even after initiation of therapy the major cause of early mortality is related to hemorrhagic complications. The coagulopathy can be exacerbated with the start of treatment. In the absence of early hemorrhage related deaths the probability of cure exceeds 90% in low and intermediate risk patients and 80% even in high risk patients, highlighting the importance of understanding the pathophysiology of this complication and instituting prompt and appropriate management strategies. The coagulopathy in APL is complex and results from a combination of thrombocytopenia, disseminated intravascular coagulation and hyperfibronlysis. Recently the effect of all-trans retinioc acid (ATRA) induced ETosis on exacerbating coagulopathy in the first few days after starting therapy with this agent raises the potential for potentially novel strategies to reduce the risk of hemorrhage. Currently management is mainly related to rapid initiation of therapy with ATRA along with appropriate and adequate replacement of blood products to correct the coagulopathy. There is limited role for the use of low dose anti-coagulants and anti-fibrinolytic agents in the initial management of this disease. There is limited data on the use of rFVIIa or the use of global tests of hemostasis in the management of this condition.

Keywords: APL; Annexin II; ETosis; Early hemorrhagic deaths; Tissue factor.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Coagulation Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Blood Coagulation Disorders / pathology
  • Hemorrhage / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute / drug therapy*
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute / pathology