The risk of spinal haematoma following neuraxial anaesthesia or lumbar puncture in thrombocytopenic individuals


Dr Joost van Veen, Sheffield Haemophilia and Thrombosis Centre, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Glossop Road, Sheffield S10 2JF, UK. E-mail:


Neuraxial anaesthesia is increasingly performed in thrombocytopenic patients at the time of delivery of pregnancy. There is a lack of data regarding the optimum platelet count at which spinal procedures can be safely performed. Reports are often confounded by the presence of other risk factors for spinal haematomata, such as anticoagulants, antiplatelet agents and other acquired or congenital coagulopathies/platelet function defects or rapidly falling platelet counts. In the absence of these additional risk factors, a platelet count of 80 × 109/l is a ‘safe’ count for placing an epidural or spinal anaesthetic and 40 × 109/l is a ‘safe’ count for lumbar puncture. It is likely that lower platelet counts may also be safe but there is insufficient published evidence to make recommendations for lower levels at this stage. For patients with platelet counts of 50–80 × 109/l requiring epidural or spinal anaesthesia and patients with a platelet count 20–40 × 109/l requiring a lumbar puncture, an individual decision based on assessment of risks and benefits should be made.