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Med J Aust. 1999 Mar 1;170(5):216-7.

The diagnosis of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura in adults: does bone marrow biopsy have a place?

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Department of Diagnostic Haematology, Royal Melbourne Hospital, VIC.



To assess the value of routine bone marrow biopsy (BMB) in adult patients less than 65 years of age with suspected idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).


Retrospective analysis. Data were collected from hospital medical records and laboratory results.


Large tertiary-level metropolitan teaching hospital, Victoria.


Sixty-six patients who had undergone BMB for investigation of isolated thrombocytopenia between January 1992 and May 1997, according to defined eligibility criteria.


Sixty-one of the 66 patients had BMB findings consistent with ITP (i.e., normal or increased numbers of megakaryocytes and other haemopoietic lineages normal). Three of these patients' biopsies incidentally showed reduced or absent iron stores. In the remaining five patients, BMB in four showed mild hypocellularity and the subsequent course in these patients was consistent with chronic ITP. The fifth patient had neutrophil hypersegmentation and giant band cells on BMB, the cause of which was unclear. The subsequent course in this patient has also been consistent with chronic ITP.


Our data suggest that the routine performance of BMB for the diagnosis of ITP is not useful, provided that a thorough clinical history and physical examination are undertaken and that the blood count and peripheral blood smear show no abnormalities apart from thrombocytopenia.

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