Platelet size: measurement, physiology and vascular disease

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Platelet volume is a marker of platelet function and activation. It is readily measured as mean platelet volume (MPV) by clinical haematology analysers using sodium citrate as the anticoagulant. Measurement in EDTA can be unreliable since MPV increases significantly in a time-dependent manner. MPV correlates with platelet function and activation, whether measured as aggregation, thromboxane synthesis, β-thromboglobulin release, procoagulant function, or adhesion molecule expression. MPV is increased in certain vascular risk factor states, including hypercholesterolaemia and diabetes mellitus, but not essential hypertension. It is increased in acute myocardial infarction, acute ischaemic stroke, pre-eclampsia and renal artery stenosis. Importantly, an elevated MPV predicts a poor outcome following myocardial infarction, restenosis following coronary angioplasty, and the development of pre-eclampsia. Research into the epidemiology of MPV is now required to determine whether thrombomegaly is a risk factor for developing vascular disease. Similarly, the physiological mechanisms which regulate MPV within the megakaryocyte need to be elucidated. Whether MPV ever becomes a routinely requested test remains to be seen but changes in methodology will be required first.

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