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PLoS One. 2013 Nov 28;8(11):e81477. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081477. eCollection 2013.

The potential of antimicrobials to induce thrombocytopenia in critically ill patients: data from a randomized controlled trial.

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Copenhagen HIV Programme at Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.



Antimicrobial-induced thrombocytopenia is frequently described in the literature among critically ill patients. Several antimicrobials have been implicated, although experimental evidence to demonstrate causality is limited. We report, using a randomized trial, the potential of antimicrobials to induce thrombocytopenia.


Randomized trial allocated patients to antimicrobial treatment according to standard- of-care (SOC group) or drug-escalation in case of procalcitonin increases (high-exposure group). Patients were followed until death or day 28. Thrombocytopenia defined as absolute (platelet count ≤ 100 x 109/L) or relative (≥ 20% decrease in platelet count). Analyses were performed in the two randomized groups and as a merged cohort.


Of the 1147 patients with platelet data available, 18% had absolute thrombocytopenia within the first 24 hours after admission to intensive care unit and additional 17% developed this complication during follow-up; 57% developed relative thrombocytopenia during follow-up. Absolute and relative thrombocytopenia day 1-4 was associated with increased mortality (HR: 1.67 [95% CI: 1.30 to 2.14]; 1.71 [95% CI: 1.30 to 2.30], P<0.0001, respectively). Patients in the high-exposure group received more antimicrobials including piperacillin/tazobactam, meropenem and ciprofloxacin compared with the SOC group, whereas cefuroxime was used more frequently in the SOC group (p<0.05). Risk of absolute and relative thrombocytopenia (RR: 0.9 [0.7-1.3], p=0.7439; 1.2 [1.0-1.4], p=0.06; respectively), as well as absolute platelet count (daily difference, high-exposure vs. SOC -1.7 [-3.8-0.5], p=0.14) was comparable between groups. In observational analyses, use of ciprofloxacin and piperacillin/tazobactam predicted risk of relative thrombocytopenia (vs. cefuroxime, RR: 2.08 [1.48-2.92]; 1.44 [1.10-1.89], respectively), however only ciprofloxacin were associated with a reduction in absolute platelet count (p=0.0005).


High exposure to broad-spectrum antimicrobials does not result in a reduction in thrombocytopenia in critically ill patients. However, single use of ciprofloxacin, and less so piperacillin/tazobactam, may contribute to a lower platelet count.


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