Utilization of platelet transfusions in the intensive care unit: indications, transfusion triggers, and platelet count responses

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A description of current platelet (PLT) transfusion practice in the intensive care unit (ICU) is needed.


All thrombocytopenic patients (PLT count, <150 × 109/L) who received PLT transfusions were identified from a previous prospective study of consecutive medical-surgical ICU patients; trauma, orthopedic, and cardiac surgery were exclusions. Risk factors for ineffective transfusions were examined.


Of 261 ICU patients, 118 (45.2%) had thrombocytopenia and a PLT count nadir of less than 50 × 109 per L (n = 22), 50 to 99 × 109 per L (n = 37), and 100 to 149 × 109 per L (n = 59). Twenty-seven (22.9%) patients received PLT transfusions (n = 76 transfusions) and 37 (31.4%) had major bleeding. PLT dose was approximately 3 to 4 × 1011 per L transfusion. Therapeutic (n = 24) and prophylactic (n = 52) PLT transfusion triggers were 51 × 109 per L (interquartile range [IQR], 26 to 68) and 41 × 109 per L (IQR, 20 to 57), respectively, as measured at a median of 4.5 hours (IQR, <1.6 to 6.9) before transfusion. A single PLT transfusion resulted in a median PLT increase of 14 × 109 per L (IQR, −2 to 30) measured at 5.2 hours (IQR, 1.8 to 8.8) after the transfusion; however, no PLT count increase was observed after 17 transfusions given to 13 (48.1%) patients. No risk factors for ineffective transfusions were identified.


Among critically ill patients, most PLT transfusions were administered to prevent, rather than to treat, bleeding, with a transfusion trigger of 40 to 50 × 109 per L. Nearly half of ICU patients who received transfusions failed to mount a PLT count increase after a single transfusion. Prospective studies are needed to determine the effects of PLT transfusions on bleeding and predictors of ineffective transfusions in the ICU.

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