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Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2018 May 11;115(19):327-334. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2018.0327.

The Differential Diagnosis and Treatment of Thrombotic Microangiopathies.

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Department of Hematology, Oncology, Palliative Care and Infectious Diseases, Alb-Fils-Kliniken, Göppingen, Germany; Department of Internal Medicine III, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany.



Thrombotic microangiopathies are rare, life-threatening diseaseswhose care involves physicians from multiple specialties. The past five years haveseen major advances in our understanding of the pathophysiology, classification,and treatment of these conditions. Their timely diagnosis and prompt treatment cansave lives.


This review is based on pertinent articles published up to 17 December2017 that were retrieved by a selective search of the National Library of Medicine'sPubMed database employing the terms "thrombotic microangiopathy," "thromboticthrombocytopenic purpura," "hemolytic-uremic syndrome," "drug-induced TMA," and"EHEC-HUS."


The classic types of thrombotic microangiopathy are thrombotic thrombo -cytopenic purpura (TTP) and typical hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), also knownas enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli-associated HUS (EHEC-HUS). There are anumber of further types from which these must be differentiated. The key test,beyond a basic hematological evaluation including a peripheral blood smear, ismeasurement of the blood level of the protease that splits von Willebrand factor,which is designated ADAMTS13 (a disintegrin and metalloprotease with thrombo -spondin type 1 motif, member 13). The quantitative determination of ADAMTS13, ofADAMTS13 activity, and of the ADAMTS13 inhibitor serves to differentiate TTP fromother types of thrombotic microangiopathy. As TTP requires urgent treatment,plasmapheresis should be begun as soon as TTP is suspected on the basis of afinding of hemolysis with schistocytes and thrombocytopenia. The treatment shouldbe altered as indicated once the laboratory findings become available.


Rapid differential diagnosis is needed in order to determine the specifictype of thrombotic microangiopathy that is present, because only patients with TTPand only a very small percentage of those with atypical hemolytic-uremic syndrome(aHUS) can benefit from plasmapheresis. The establishment of a nationwideregistry in Germany with an attached biobank might help reveal yet unknowngenetic predispositions.

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