Contemporary management of primary immune thrombocytopenia in adults


Adam Cuker, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 3 Dulles, 3400 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
Tel.: +1 215 615 6555; fax: +1 215 615 6599.


Summary.  Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) comprises a syndrome of diverse disorders that have in common immune-mediated thrombocytopenia, but that differ with respect to pathogenesis, natural history and response to therapy. ITP may occur in the absence of an evident predisposing etiology (primary ITP) or as a sequela of a growing list of associated conditions (secondary ITP). Primary ITP remains a diagnosis of exclusion and must be differentiated from non-autoimmune etiologies of thrombocytopenia and secondary causes of ITP. The traditional objective of management is to provide a hemostatic platelet count (> 20–30 × 109 L−1 in most cases) while minimizing treatment-related toxicity, although treatment goals should be tailored to the individual patient and clinical setting. Corticosteroids, supplemented with either intravenous immune globulin G or anti-Rh(D) as needed, are used as upfront therapy to stop bleeding and raise the platelet count acutely in patients with newly diagnosed or newly relapsed disease. Although most adults with primary ITP respond to first-line therapy, the majority relapse after treatment is tapered and require a second-line approach to maintain a hemostatic platelet count. Standard second-line options include splenectomy, rituximab and the thrombopoietin receptor agonists, romiplostim and eltrombopag. Studies that directly compare the efficacy, safety and cost-effectiveness of these approaches are lacking. In the absence of such data, we do not favor a single second-line approach for all patients. Rather, we consider the pros and cons of each option with our patients and engage them in the decision-making process.