Goal 2: Reduce Human Disease

How should platelet (PLT) transfusions be used to treat active bleeding?

Multiple randomized controlled trials have been performed to evaluate the use of prophylactic PLT transfusions in non-bleeding, thrombocytopenic hematology-oncology patients. However no high-quality data exist to guide PLT transfusions in actively bleeding patients inclduing pediatric and adult medical and surgical patients. After hematology-oncology patients, cardiac surgery patients are the next largest group of PLT transfusion recipients. Cardiac surgery patients use 10-25% of all blood products in the U.S. Bleeding shortly after cardiac surgery is a common and clinically important problem and excessive bleeding is an independent predictor of decreased survival. Optimal PLT transfusion therapy in this setting needs to be defiined.

Tags (Keywords associated with the idea)

Is this idea a Compelling Question (CQ) or Critical Challenge (CC)?: Compelling Question (CQ)

Details on the impact of addressing this CQ or CC:

PLT count is almost always the only laboratory result considered in deciding to transfuse PLTs. But PLT counts provide no information about PLT hemostatic function and its contribution to bleeding. A variety of in vitro coagulation tests have been developed: viscoelastography, whole blood PLT aggregometry, etc. But while testing-based transfusion algorithms may reduce blood product utilization, it has not been established that any in vitro test can either predict or help reduce bleeding. There is a gold standard method to assess clinical efficacy of transfused PLTs: incidence of grade 2 or higher bleeding in clinical trials of thrombocytopenic hematology-oncology patients receiving prophylactic PLT transfusions. No analogous gold standard of PLT hemostatic efficacy exists for therapeutic PLT transfusions to treat active bleeding. There is a pressing need to develop such a standard. Establishing reliable methods for evaluating the effects of PLT transfusion in actively bleeding patients will improve our understanding of how different factors (storage conditions, pathogen reduction etc.) affect the functional performance of PLTs.

Feasibility and challenges of addressing this CQ or CC:

PLT transfusions are administered routinely to support bleeding pediatric and adult medical and surgical patients. Opportunities to conduct clinical trials in various settings (cardiac surgery, neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, trauma, etc.) are widely available. PLT transfusion is commonly used to support bleeding patients receiving perioperative supportive therapies such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). These clinical situations represent critical opportunities to improve the care of bleeding patients. This approach will simultaneously facilitate comprehensive evaluation and validation of both current and novel in vitro tests of hemostasis. If a given in vitro test were reproducibly shown to correlate strongly with bleeding reduction caused by PLT transfusion, then by definition that would be a clinically meaningful test. Finally, this line of inquiry will allow assessment of the adverse effects of PLT transfusion in bleeding patients.

Name of idea submitter and other team members who worked on this idea: Terry Gernsheimer, University of Washington, for the 2015 NHLBI for the State of the Science in Transfusion Medicine


30 net votes
44 up votes
14 down votes
Idea No. 435