Intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) is a frequent complication found in leukemia patients with thrombocytopenia. At the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, when a leukemia patient is found to have ICH, a platelet transfusion is generally recommended until 50,000/μl is reached. The authors examine the feasibility and outcome of their intervention strategy in this study.
Records were reviewed from 76 consecutive leukemia patients with newly diagnosed ICH at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center from January 1, 2007, to December 31, 2009. Variables of interest included age, platelet count at presentation, leukemia subtype, history of trauma, Glasgow Coma Scale score at presentation, whether the 50,000/μl goal was reached after transfusion, and whether the patient was a transfusion responder (platelet count increase > 2000/μl/unit transfused). Outcome parameters were mortality rates at 72 hours and 30 days and imaging-documented hemorrhage progression.
Thrombocytopenia was prevalent at the time of presentation (68 of 76 patients had platelet levels < 50,000/μl at presentation). Despite an aggressive transfusion protocol, only 24 patients reached the 50,000/μl target after an average of 16 units of transfusion. Death due to ICH occurred in 15 patients within the first 72 hours (mortality rate 19.7%). Death correlated with the presenting Glasgow Coma Scale score (p = 0.0075) but not with other transfusion-related parameters. A significant mortality rate was again observed after 30 days (32.7%). The 30-day mortality rate, however, was largely attributable to non-ICH related causes and correlated with patient age (p = 0.032) and whether the patient was a transfusion responder (p = 0.022). Reaching and maintaining a platelet count > 50,000/μl did not positively correlate with the 30-day mortality rate (p = 0.392 and 0.475, respectively).
Platelet transfusion in the setting of ICH in leukemia patients is undoubtedly necessary, but whether the transfusion threshold should be 50,000/μl remains unclear. Factors other than thrombocytopenia likely contribute to the overall poor prognosis.