Thrombocytopenia in Critical Care Patients

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Thrombocytopenia is a common laboratory finding in the intensive care unit (ICU) patient. Because the causes can range from laboratory artifact to life-threatening processes such as thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), identifying the cause of thrombocytopenia is important. In the evaluation of the thrombocytopenia patient, one should incorporate all clinical clues such as why the patient is in the hospital, medications the patient is on, and other abnormal laboratory findings. One should ensure that the patient does not suffer from heparininduced thrombocytopenia (HIT) or one of the thrombotic microangiopathies (TMs). HIT can present in any patient on heparin and requires specific testing and antithrombotic therapy. TMs cover a spectrum of disease ranging from TTP to pregnancy complications and can have a variety of presentations. Management of disseminated intravascular coagulation depends on the patient's condition and complication. Other causes of ICU thrombocytopenia include sepsis, medication side effects, posttransfusion purpura, catastrophic anti phospholipid antibody disease, and immune thrombocytopenia.

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