People with thrombocytopenia often require a surgical procedure. A low platelet count is a relative contraindication to surgery due to the risk of bleeding. Platelet transfusions are used in clinical practice to prevent and treat bleeding in people with thrombocytopenia. Current practice in many countries is to correct thrombocytopenia with platelet transfusions prior to surgery. Alternatives to platelet transfusion are also used prior surgery.
To determine the clinical effectiveness and safety of prophylactic platelet transfusions prior to surgery for people with a low platelet count.
We searched the following major data bases: Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; 2017, Issue 2), PubMed (e-publications only), Ovid MEDLINE, Ovid Embase, the Transfusion Evidence Library and ongoing trial databases to 11 December 2017.
We included all randomised controlled trials (RCTs), as well as non-RCTs and controlled before-and-after studies (CBAs), that met Cochrane EPOC (Effective Practice and Organisation of Care) criteria, that involved the transfusion of platelets prior to surgery (any dose, at any time, single or multiple) in people with low platelet counts. We excluded studies on people with a low platelet count who were actively bleeding.
We used standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane for data collection. We were only able to combine data for two outcomes and we presented the rest of the findings in a narrative form.
We identified five RCTs, all conducted in adults; there were no eligible non-randomised studies. Three completed trials enrolled 180 adults and two ongoing trials aim to include 627 participants. The completed trials were conducted between 2005 and 2009. The two ongoing trials are scheduled to complete recruitment by October 2019. One trial compared prophylactic platelet transfusions to no transfusion in people with thrombocytopenia in an intensive care unit (ICU). Two small trials, 108 participants, compared prophylactic platelet transfusions to other alternative treatments in people with liver disease. One trial compared desmopressin to fresh frozen plasma or one unit of platelet transfusion or both prior to surgery. The second trial compared platelet transfusion prior to surgery with two types of thrombopoietin mimetics: romiplostim and eltrombopag. None of the included trials were free from methodological bias. No included trials compared different platelet count thresholds for administering a prophylactic platelet transfusion prior to surgery. None of the included trials reported on all the review outcomes and the overall quality per reported outcome was very low.None of the three completed trials reported: all-cause mortality at 90 days post surgery; mortality secondary to bleeding, thromboembolism or infection; number of red cell or platelet transfusions per participant; length of hospital stay; or quality of life.None of the trials included children or people who needed major surgery or emergency surgical procedures.Platelet transfusion versus no platelet transfusion (1 trial, 72 participants)We were very uncertain whether giving a platelet transfusion prior to surgery had any effect on all-cause mortality within 30 days (1 trial, 72 participants; risk ratio (RR) 0.78, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.41 to 1.45; very-low quality evidence). We were very uncertain whether giving a platelet transfusion prior to surgery had any effect on the risk of major (1 trial, 64 participants; RR 1.60, 95% CI 0.29 to 8.92; very low-quality evidence), or minor bleeding (1 trial, 64 participants; RR 1.29, 95% CI 0.90 to 1.85; very-low quality evidence). No serious adverse events occurred in either study arm (1 trial, 72 participants, very low-quality evidence).Platelet transfusion versus alternative to platelet transfusion (2 trials, 108 participants)We were very uncertain whether giving a platelet transfusion prior to surgery compared to an alternative has any effect on the risk of major (2 trials, 108 participants; no events; very low-quality evidence), or minor bleeding (desmopressin: 1 trial, 36 participants; RR 0.89, 95% CI 0.06 to 13.23; very-low quality evidence: thrombopoietin mimetics: 1 trial, 65 participants; no events; very-low quality evidence). We were very uncertain whether there was a difference in transfusion-related adverse effects between the platelet transfused group and the alternative treatment group (desmopressin: 1 trial, 36 participants; RR 2.70, 95% CI 0.12 to 62.17; very-low quality evidence).
Findings of this review were based on three small trials involving minor surgery in adults with thrombocytopenia. We found insufficient evidence to recommend the administration of preprocedure prophylactic platelet transfusions in this situation with a lack of evidence that transfusion resulted in a reduction in postoperative bleeding or all-cause mortality. The small number of trials meeting the inclusion criteria and the limitation in reported outcomes across the trials precluded meta-analysis for most outcomes. Further adequately powered trials, in people of all ages, of prophylactic platelet transfusions compared with no transfusion, other alternative treatments, and considering different platelet thresholds prior to planned and emergency surgical procedures are required. Future trials should include major surgery and report on bleeding, adverse effects, mortality (as a long-term outcome) after surgery, duration of hospital stay and quality of life measures.