Triggers for prophylactic use of platelet transfusions and optimal platelet dosing in thrombocytopenic dogs and cats

Anthony C Abrams-Ogg
Veterinary Clinics of North America. Small Animal Practice 2003, 33 (6): 1401-18
Prophylactic platelet transfusions are frequently given to human patients with hypoproliferative thrombocytopenia. For several decades, the most common transfusion trigger was 20,000/microL, but the trend is now to use 10,000/microL in the absence of other risk factors for bleeding. This trigger seems to reduce the number of transfusions without increasing the risk of severe bleeding. Most studies involved in establishing platelet transfusion policies have involved patients with acute leukemia, with fewer studies involving patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation or aggressive chemotherapy for other cancers and patients with aplastic anemia. In the presence of other risk factors for spontaneous bleeding, 20,000/microL is still considered an appropriate trigger. The trigger for prophylactic transfusion before surgery has not undergone the same recent scrutiny as has the trigger for spontaneous bleeding. The recommendation remains to raise the platelet count to 50,000 to 100,000/microL if possible, although it is recognized that surgery and other invasive procedures have been performed at lower platelet counts without major bleeding. Prophylactic transfusion is not used in disorders of platelet consumption and destruction to prevent spontaneous bleeding but is used before surgery. Because of the comparative lack of experience with platelet transfusion in veterinary medicine, it is difficult to make generalizations for dogs and cats. Using the guidelines established for therapeutic and prophylactic transfusion of human patients is a reasonable starting point, however. A therapeutic transfusion policy is suggested in the veterinary setting provided that the patient can be closely observed for critical bleeding and a prompt transfusion can be given. This policy should ultimately reduce the overall number of platelet transfusions given to hospital patients. If an animal cannot be closely observed or the ability to transfuse on demand is limited, prophylactic transfusion is recommended. The triggers for initiating a platelet transfusion in dogs are extrapolated from human data; these values are lower by 50% for cats. Because of the imprecision of platelet counting at low values, platelet counts must always be interpreted in conjunction with clinical signs of hemorrhage. If platelet-rich plasma or platelet concentrate is available, a dose of 1 platelet unit per 10 kg is recommended, although resources may dictate a smaller dose. This will raise the recipient platelet count by a maximum of about 40,000/microL. Assuming a trigger of 10,000/microL, a transfusion will probably be required approximately every 3 days. It must be remembered that the frequency of platelet transfusions may be greater in the presence of factors accelerating platelet loss or destruction. If fresh whole blood is used, a rule of thumb is to transfuse 10 mL/kg, which will raise the recipient platelet count by a maximum of approximately 10,000/microL. Daily transfusions or transfusions every other day will probably be required.

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