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Summary. Platelet mean life span (MLS) and platelet production were measured in 3–5 patients with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) and in 21 healthy subjects.

The mean platelet production in ITP was 2.3 times normal: the highest values were 3–5 times normal. There was a highly significant negative correlation between platelet production and peripheral platelet count. With platelet counts above 50000μl, platelet turnover was within the upper part of the normal range, but with lower platelet counts, turnover progressively increased. It is concluded that the bone marrow in ITP increases platelet production in response to a low platelet count and that this response does not differ from that hitherto known to occur in man and animals rendered thrombocytopenic by thrombopheresis.

The disappearance curve of 51Cr labelled platelets in ITP consists of two components, a rapid initial one covering the first 15 min after infusion and then a slower one. The pattern was the same whether autologous or homologous platelets were used for labelling. It is suggested that the initial part of the curve does not represent in vivo survival but is due to slight damage to the platelets during the labelling procedure. These slightly damaged cells can resume normal viability when infused into a normal recipient but are rendered less viable when further damaged by platelet antibodies in patients with ITP. This explains the low recovery of infused labelled platelets in ITP recipients, despite the fact that the size of their splenic platelet pool is normal.