Essential thrombocythaemia (ET) is a chronic myeloproliferative disorder characterized by the occurrence of thromboembolic episodes, particularly in patients aged > 60 years or with a previous history of thrombosis, and/or by haemorrhages in patients with an exceedingly high platelet count. In these subgroups of patients the use of cytoreductive therapy is beneficial in terms of risk/benefit ratio. Only limited anecdotal data are available on the thrombotic or haemorrhagic risk and survival in young asymptomatic ET patients with a platelet count < 1500 × 109/l. Therefore the optimal management of these patients is unknown.
To assess the incidence of thrombosis and haemorrhages in this group of patients we carried out a prospective observational study in a cohort of 65 patients with ET, aged < 60 years, with no history of thrombosis or haemorrhage and platelet count < 1500 × 109/l, and in 65 age- and sex-matched controls. Patients were not treated with cytoreductive therapy until the occurrence of thrombosis or haemorrhage. Arterial or venous thrombotic events were objectively documented both in cases and in controls.
The median follow-up was 4.1 years, with an incidence of thrombosis in patients and controls of 1.91 and 1.50 cases/100 patient-years, respectively. The age- and sex-adjusted risk rate ratio was 1.43 (95% CI 0.37–5.4). Only three minor haemorrhagic episodes occurred in patients, with an incidence of 1.12 cases/100 patient-years.
Pregnancy and surgery were not associated with thrombosis in these patients.
We conclude that the thrombotic risk in young ET patients, with no thrombotic history and a platelet count < 1500 × 109/l, is not increased compared to the normal population and that a conservative therapeutic approach should therefore be considered in these patients.