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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

versão On-line ISSN 2078-5135
versão impressa ISSN 0256-9574


VAUGHAN, J L et al. Prevalence and causes of thrombocytopenia in an academic state sector laboratory in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2015, vol.105, n.3, pp.215-219. ISSN 2078-5135.

BACKGROUND: Causes of thrombocytopenia range from laboratory errors to life-threatening pathological conditions. To establish the cause, appropriate laboratory investigation is required. OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence and causes of platelet counts <100 χ 109/L in state health facilities in Johannesburg, South Africa, as well as the quality of the subsequent laboratory work-up in this setting. METHODS: Full blood counts (FBCs) performed on 7 randomly selected days at the National Health Laboratory Service laboratory at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital were retrospectively reviewed. Samples with platelet counts <100 χ 109/L were identified, and pertinent information was extracted from the laboratory database. RESULTS: Of 4 456 FBCs included, 381 (8.6%) had a platelet count of <100 χ 109/L. Thrombocytopenia prevalence rates were high in haematology/oncology wards (34.4%), intensive care units (20.5%) and medical wards (18.7%) and among neonatal inpatients (16.5%), and were lowest in outpatient clinics (1 - 2%). A cause was apparent in ~60% of patients, the commonest causes being chemotherapy and sepsis (each comprising >20% of the recognised causes). Spurious thrombocytopenia, disseminated tuberculosis, aplastic anaemia, immune thrombocytopenia and malignant marrow infiltration each accounted for 5 - 10% of the causes, while malaria, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, HIV effect and liver disease were each identified in <5% of cases. HIV status was documented in ~70% of the patients, of whom ~50% tested positive. The quality of the laboratory work-up showed differences between specialties within the hospital setting, and was poorest in the primary healthcare clinic sector. CONCLUSION: Thrombocytopenia is common in hospitalised patients in the Johannesburg academic state sector. Differences in the quality of the laboratory work-up emphasise the need for a standardised approach to thrombocytopenia investigation and increased awareness among clinicians.

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