• plasma exchange, cryosupernatant plasma, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura

The current established treatment of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) is plasma exchange with fresh frozen plasma (FFP). With this treatment, there is a 49% response after seven exchanges and a 78% survival at 1 month. Although the exact cause of TTP is unknown, the presence of von Willebrand factor (VWF) multimers has been implicated in the disease. Accordingly, it has been suggested that cryosupernatant (plasma from which cryoprecipitate has been removed), which is relatively deficient in VWF multimers, might be an effective replacement fluid during plasma exchange.

Patients from six centres were treated by plasma exchange with cryosupernatant. 18 patients who had failed a first course (average 7.7 exchanges) of plasma exchange with FFP, received a further seven exchanges with cryosupernatant. Subsequently, 40 previously untreated patients were exchanged with cryosupernatant.

Of the 18 previously treated patients, 11 responded (defined as an increase in platelet count to >150 × 109/l and no neurological events) after seven exchanges and 15 (83%) of the patients were alive at 1 month. The response rate in the 40 previously untreated patients was 75% at the end of seven exchanges and 95% of the patients were alive at 1 month. These values are significantly different (P<0.05) from those reported in our earlier study and in other patients concurrently treated at the same centres with FFP when cryosupernatant was not available.

Some patients who have failed to respond to plasma exchange with FFP replacement will respond to further exchange with cryosupernatant. Cryosupernatant replacement may be more effective as first-line treatment of TTP than FFP.