Clinical aspects of platelet transfusions

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Refractoriness is the most important complication of platelet transfusion therapy, occurring in about 50% of patients receiving repeated transfusions. The major causes are HLA alloimmunization and non-immune platelet consumption associated with clinical factors such as septicaemia, DIC and splenomegaly. Initial management of alloimmunized patients who are refractory to platelet transfusions from random donors is the use of HLA-matched platelet transfusions, which improve responses to transfusions in about 65% of patients. It may be difficult to provide effective platelet transfusion support for alloimmunized patients not responding to HLA-matched transfusions. There has been much interest in methods for the prevention of HLA alloimmunization. Primary HLA alloimmunization is dependent on the presence of HLA class II antigen-bearing cells in transfusions; pure platelet transfusions are non-immunogenic as platelets only express HLA class I antigens. The use of leucocyte-depleted blood components in multitransfused patients has resulted in a reduction in HLA alloimmunization and platelet refractoriness. Improvements in the techniques for leucocyte-depletion of red cell and platelet concentrates and the possibility of inactivation of HLA class II antigen-bearing cells by UV irradiation makes prevention of alloimmunization an attainable goal.

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