Platelet-mediated microvascular inflammation and thrombosis in thrombocythemia vera: a distinct aspirin-responsive arterial thrombophilia, which transforms into a bleeding diathesis at increasing platelet counts

J J Michiels
Pathologie-biologie 2003, 51 (3): 167-75
Erythromelalgia is the main, pathognomonic and presenting symptom in patients with essential thrombocythemia and thrombocythemia associated with polycythemia vera. Complete relief from erythromelalgic and acrocyanotic pain is obtained with the cyclooxygenase inhibitors aspirin and indomethacin, but not with sodiumsalicylate, dipyridamol, sulfinpyrozone and ticlopedine. Thus, cyclooxygenase metabolites are necessary for erythromelalgia to develop. Local platelet consumption in erythromelalgic areas became evident by the demonstration of arteriolar fibromuscular intimal proliferation and occlusions by platelet-rich thrombi in skin biopsies, by the findings of shortened platelet survival times, significant higher levels of platelet activation markers beta-thromboglobulin, thrombomoduline and increased urinary thromboxane B2 excretion in thrombocythemia patients suffering from erythromelalgia. Aspirin treatment of erythromelalgia in thrombocythemia patients resulted in the disappearance of the erythromelalgic, thrombotic signs and symptoms, correction of the shortened platelet survival times, and a significant reduction of the increased levels of beta-TG, PF4, TM and urinary TxB2 excretion to normal. Erythromelalgia is frequently preceded or followed by atypical transient neurologic, ocular or coronary ischemic symptoms, which specifically respond to low-dose aspirin or reduction of platelet counts to normal. The broad spectrum of acropareshesias, erythromelalgia and acrocyanotic ischemia together with the episodic and transient atypical TIAs and ocular or coronary ischemic symptoms are caused by spontaneous activation and aggregation of hypersensitive platelets in the end-arterial microvasculature involving the peripheral, cerebral and coronary circulation of thrombocythemia patients. These microvascular circulation ischemic disturbances in thrombocythemia vera already occur at platelet counts in excess of 400 x 10(9) l(-1). Low-dose aspirin is highly effective and safe in the cure and prevention of thrombotic and ischemic events and does not elicit bleedings at platelet counts below 1000 x 10(9) l(-1). Spontaneous hemorrhages usually occur at very high platelet counts far in excess of 1000 x 10(9) l(-1) (HT) due to an acquired von Willebrand factor deficiency at increasing platelet counts. At platelet counts between 1000 and 2000 x 10(9) l(-1), thrombosis and bleeding (ETT and HT) frequently occur in sequence or paradoxically and low-dose aspirin does prevent thrombotic complications but aggravates or may elicit bleeding symptoms. Reduction of the platelet count to below 1000 x 10(9) l(-1) by platelet lowering agents usually results in the disappearance of the bleeding tendency and improvement of the von Willebrand syndrome, but the thrombotic tendency persists as long as platelet counts are above the upper limit of normal.

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