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Thrombocytopenia is a common problem among sick neonates admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. Among neonates, preterm infants are the subgroup at highest risk for thrombocytopenia and hemorrhage, which is frequently intracranial. Although there is no evidence of a relationship between platelet (PLT) count and occurrence of major hemorrhage, preterm infants are commonly transfused prophylactically when PLT counts fall below an arbitrary limit, and this threshold is usually higher than for older infants or adults. This liberal practice has been influenced by the observation that, in vitro, neonatal PLTs are hyporeactive in response to multiple agonists. However, full-term infants exhibit normal to increased primary hemostasis due to factors in neonatal blood that enhance the PLT-vessel wall interaction. Additionally, cardiorespiratory problems are considered the main etiologic factors in the development of neonatal intraventricular hemorrhage. In this review, we will discuss the developmental differences that exist in regard to PLT production and function, as well as in primary hemostasis in preterm and term neonates, and the implications of these developmental differences to transfusion medicine. PLT transfusions are not exempt of risk, and a better understanding of the PLT function and the hemostatic profile of premature infants and their changes over time and in response to illness is the starting point to design randomized controlled trials to define optimal use of PLT transfusions in premature neonates. Without these future trials, the marked disparities in PLT transfusion practice in neonates between hospitals and countries will remain over time.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





2814 - 2821


Adult, Blood Platelets, Hemostasis, Humans, Infant, Newborn, Platelet Transfusion, Thrombocytopenia, Neonatal Alloimmune, Thrombopoiesis