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Lancet. 1991 Nov 16;338(8777):1223-6.

Safety of stringent prophylactic platelet transfusion policy for patients with acute leukaemia.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital of Zürich, Switzerland.


Early studies suggested that the risk of haemorrhagic complications become unacceptable when platelet counts drop below 20 x 10(9)/l. Because there are insufficient data to define 20 x 10(9)/l as the threshold for prophylactic platelet transfusions, the practicability of a more restrictive transfusion policy has been assessed prospectively in 102 consecutive patients being treated for acute leukaemia. Besides platelet count, the transfusion protocol took into consideration factors such as presence of bleeding, fever, coagulation disorders, and intention to do therapeutic procedures. 31 major bleeding episodes occurred on 1.9% of the study days when platelet counts were 10 x 10(9)/l or less and on 0.07% of study days when counts were 10-20 x 10(9)/l. The findings indicate that the threshold for prophylactic transfusions can safely be set at 5 x 10(9)/l in patients without fever or bleeding manifestations and at 10 x 10(9)/l in patients with such signs. For patients with coagulation disorders or anatomical lesions, or for those on heparin, the threshold should be at least 20 x 10(9)/l. Such a restrictive platelet transfusion policy, which is applicable not only to thrombocytopenia associated with acute leukaemia but also to other forms of hypoproliferative thrombocytopenia, reduces exposure of such patients to blood donors and results in substantial health-care savings.

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