Platelet transfusions in haematology patients: are we using them appropriately?


Lise J. Estcourt, NHS Blood and Transplant, Level 2, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9BQ, UK


Background and Objectives  A large proportion of all platelet components are given to haematology patients. As there are risks associated with their transfusion, costs associated with production, and shortages may occur, it is important that their use is appropriate.

Study Design and Methods  The study was split into two parts, a survey to assess local practice guidelines and an assessment of platelet usage. A total of 123 hospitals completed the survey and 168 hospitals submitted data of 40 haematology patients over a 3-month period.

Results  The organizational survey found that 36% of hospitals routinely give prophylactic platelet transfusions to patients with long-term bone-marrow failure. Also, a significant minority of hospitals administer platelet transfusions if the platelet count is below a certain threshold prior to performing a bone-marrow aspirate (11%) or a bone-marrow aspirate and trephine (23%); both of these are contrary to UK platelet transfusion guidelines. Data were collected on a total of 3402 patients, of which 3296 cases were eligible for analysis. They received approximately 46% of all platelet components issued to participating hospitals in England during the study period. The majority (69%) of platelet transfusions were prophylactic; of these only 33% were given when the platelet count was ≤10 × 109/l. Using an algorithm, based on current UK guidelines, 60% of prophylactic transfusions were appropriate, 6% could not be assessed and 34% were inappropriate. A total of 10% of all prophylactic transfusions were double the standard adult dose.

Conclusions  There is considerable potential for decreased use of platelet transfusions with a consequent improvement in their appropriate use and cost reduction.