Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Essential Thrombocythaemia

Diagnosis, Prognostic Aspects, and the Outcome of Finnish patients

Riitta Niittyvuopio

Doctoral dissertation, October 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Clinical Medicine.

Essential thrombocythaemia (ET) is a myeloproliferative disease (MPD) characterized by thrombocytosis, i.e. a constant elevation of platelet count. Thrombocytosis may appear in MPDs (ET, polycythaemia vera, chronic myeloid leukaemia, myelofibrosis) and as a reactive phenomenon. The differential diagnosis of thrombocytosis is important, because the clinical course, need of therapy, and prognosis are different in patients with MPDs and in those with reactive thrombocytosis. ET patients may remain asymptomatic for years, but serious thrombohaemorrhagic and pregnancy-related complications may occur. The complications are difficult to predict. The aims of the present study were to evaluate the diagnostic findings, clinical course, and prognostic factors of ET.

The present retrospective study consists of 170 ET patients. Two thirds had a platelet count < 1000 x 109/l. The diagnosis was supported by an increased number of megakaryocytes with an abnormal morphology in a bone marrow aspirate, aggregation defects in platelet function studies, and the presence of spontaneous erythroid and/or megakaryocytic colony formation in in vitro cultures of haematopoietic progenitors. About 70 % of the patients had spontaneous colony formation, while about 30 % had a normal growth pattern.

Only a fifth of the patients remained asymptomatic. Half had a major thrombohaemorrhagic complication. The proportion of the patients suffering from thrombosis was as high as 45 %. About a fifth had major bleedings. Half of the patients had microvascular symptoms. Age over 60 years increased the risk of major bleedings, but the occurrence of thrombotic complications was similar in all age groups. Male gender, smoking in female patients, the presence of any spontaneous colony formation, and the presence of spontaneous megakaryocytic colony formation in younger patients were identified as risk factors for thrombosis.

Pregnant ET patients had an increased risk of complications. Forty-five per cent of the pregnancies were complicated and 38 % of them ended in stillbirth. Treatment with acetylsalicylic acid alone or in combination with platelet lowering drugs improved the outcome of the pregnancy.

The present findings about risk factors in ET as well as treatment outcome in the pregnancies of ET patients should be taken into account when planning treatment strategies for Finnish patients.

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Last updated 25.09.2006

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