To determine the incidence of thrombocytosis at presentation in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), medical records of all children diagnosed at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh from 1980 to 1987 were reviewed. Out of 217 such patients, 7 (3.2%) had platelet counts greater than 400,000/mm3. All of the seven were boys compared with a male:female ration of 1.4:1 in the entire ALL population. Other than sex, no characteristics were clearly associated with thrombocytosis, including white blood cell count, hemoglobin, lymphoblast morphology, and immunologic or chromosomal markers. Apart from ALL, no inflammatory or infectious process which might have caused a thrombocytosis, was detected in any of these patients. The period of induction therapy was notable for the preservation of platelet counts greater than 20,000/mm3 in all patients. However, of the seven children with thrombocytosis, two had major induction complications: one, a cavernous sinus thrombosis; and the other, gastrointestinal bleeding with duodenal perforation.
We conclude that thrombocytosis at diagnosis can be seen in children, particularly boys, with ALL. Based on small numbers, this group of patients may be at risk for major events during induction therapy. Large numbers, longer follow-up, and platelet function studies on similar patients will be of interest.