Berend Houwen Memorial Lecture: ISLH Las Vegas May 2009

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Thrombotic microangiopathies are a relatively rare group of congenital and inherited disorders caused by defects in processing the ultra large forms of von Willibrand factor which pathologically give rise to platelet rich microthrombi in the micro arterial circulation leading to end organ damage particularly in the brain, heart and kidneys. Identification of the ADAMTS 13 gene has led to the definition of congenital deficiency of its activity or failure of activity due to the development of an inhibitory IgG antibody. The idiopathic autoimmune form of the disease is the most common. There are various subgroups of acquired TTP associated with HIV infection, pregnancy, pancreatitis, associated with bone marrow transplantation, various disseminated malignancies and certain drugs, particularly Clopidogrel. Diagnostic assays are now becoming widely available to identify ADAMTS 13 activity and also acquired antibodies to the enzyme. Mainline treatment is associated with daily plasma exchange with associated other immunosuppressant treatments particularly steroids and recently the use of Rituximab, a monoclonal anti-CD20 antibody. Despite improvement in treatment modalities there is still significant mortality of 10-20%, particularly if there is a delay in initiating plasma exchange. Relapse also occurs in 20-50% of patients although this may be improved by Rituximab therapy.

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