Neonatal platelet transfusions: New evidence and the challenges of translating evidence-based recommendations into clinical practice.
Sola-Visner M., Leeman KT., Stanworth SJ.
Platelet transfusions are a common intervention for thrombocytopenia. Although the main reason for transfusing platelets is to improve hemostasis, platelets have many additional physiological roles, including interactions with immune pathways. Much of the evidence base for safe and effective transfusions has been informed by randomized trials in adult patients with hematological malignancies. Only three randomized trials have been conducted in sick neonates. These trials have indicated evidence of harm, including a significantly higher rate of death or major bleeding within 28 days after randomization for the largest trial, which enrolled 660 infants. The overall research indicates limited effectiveness of platelet transfusions to reduce bleeding risk. It is important that the results of trials are implemented into practice, but uptake of research findings into neonatal medicine remains inconsistent, as for many areas of health care. There is a need to establish which potential implementation strategies (cost-) efficiently enact change, such as audit and feedback, automated reminder systems for ordering transfusions, and use of opinion leaders. Research is exploring potential mechanisms underlying the lack of effectiveness of platelet transfusions and the increased bleeding and mortality observed in neonatal randomized trials. One potential mechanism concerns the roles of platelets to promote excessive angiogenic signals during a vulnerable period of brain development. A further hypothesis explores the effects of transfusing "adult" platelets into "neonatal" thrombocytopenic blood on primary hemostasis and immune responses.