Background: Mean platelet volume (MPV) is arousing increasing interest as a new independent cardiovascular risk factor.
Aim: To provide a comprehensive review on the biological significance, the main determinants and the prognostic implications of MPV.
Methods: A literature search was performed using key terms, such as ‘MPV’ or ‘mean platelet volume’, together with ‘stroke’, ‘myocardial infarction’ and ‘diabetes and ‘obesity’.
Results: Large platelets are likely more reactive: elevated MPV values are associated with a shortened bleeding time and increased thromboxane B2 plasma levels. Thus, MPV could be considered an indicator of platelet function. Platelet size is mainly determined in the bone marrow during megakaryocytopoiesis, and subsequently does not substantially change. MPV is only partially regulated by thrombopoietin: in fact, growth factors and cytokines may also elicit the production of larger and more reactive platelets in the bone marrow, in the presence of conditions capable of increasing their concentrations, such as obesity, endothelial dysfunction and possibly myocardial and cerebral ischaemia. This phenomenon could play an important role in vascular diseases. In fact MPV is predictive of stroke, acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and restenosis of coronary angioplasty, is increased in the presence of obesity, diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome, AMI and stroke and has been shown to have a prognostic significance in patients with stroke and AMI.
Conclusion: In assessing whole blood count, MPV should not be undervalued, as its increase should suggest a careful assessment of cardiovascular risk.