Bone marrow disorders encompass a group of diseases characterised by reduced production of red cells, white cells, and platelets, or defects in their function, or both. The most common bone marrow disorder is myelodysplastic syndrome. Thrombocytopenia, a low platelet count, commonly occurs in people with bone marrow failure. Platetet transfusions are routinely used in people with thrombocytopenia secondary to bone marrow failure disorders to treat or prevent bleeding. Myelodysplastic syndrome is currently the most common reason for receiving a platelet transfusion in some Western countries.
To determine whether a therapeutic-only platelet transfusion policy (transfusion given when patient is bleeding) is as effective and safe as a prophylactic platelet transfusion policy (transfusion given to prevent bleeding according to a prespecified platelet threshold) in people with congenital or acquired bone marrow failure disorders.
We searched for randomised controlled trials (RCTs), non-RCTs, and controlled before-after studies (CBAs) in the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (the Cochrane Library 2017, Issue 9), Ovid MEDLINE (from 1946), Ovid Embase (from 1974), PubMed (e-publications only), the Transfusion Evidence Library (from 1950), and ongoing trial databases to 12 October 2017.
We included RCTs, non-RCTs, and CBAs that involved the transfusion of platelet concentrates (prepared either from individual units of whole blood or by apheresis any dose, frequency, or transfusion trigger) and given to treat or prevent bleeding among people with congenital or acquired bone marrow failure disorders.
We excluded uncontrolled studies, cross-sectional studies, and case-control studies. We excluded cluster-RCTs, non-randomised cluster trials, and CBAs with fewer than two intervention sites and two control sites due to the risk of confounding. We included all people with long-term bone marrow failure disorders that require platelet transfusions, including neonates. We excluded studies of alternatives to platelet transfusion, or studies of people receiving intensive chemotherapy or a stem cell transplant.
Data collection and analysis
We used the standard methodological procedures outlined by Cochrane. Due to the absence of evidence we were unable to report on any of the review outcomes.
We identified one RCT that met the inclusion criteria for this review. The study enrolled only nine adults with MDS over a three-year study duration period. The trial was terminated due to poor recruitment rate (planned recruitment 60 participants over two years). Assessment of the risk of bias was not possible for all domains. The trial was a single-centre, single-blind trial. The clinical and demographic characteristics of the participants were never disclosed. The trial outcomes relevant to this review were bleeding assessments, mortality, quality of life, and length of hospital stay, but no data were available to report on any of these outcomes.
We identified no completed non-RCTs or CBAs.
We identified no ongoing RCTs, non-RCTs, or CBAs.
We found no evidence to determine the safety and efficacy of therapeutic platelet transfusion compared with prophylactic platelet transfusion for people with long-term bone marrow failure disorders. This review underscores the urgency of prioritising research in this area. People with bone marrow failure depend on long-term platelet transfusion support, but the only trial that assessed a therapeutic strategy was halted. There is a need for good-quality studies comparing a therapeutic platelet transfusion strategy with a prophylactic platelet transfusion strategy; such trials should include outcomes that are important to patients, such as quality of life, length of hospital admission, and risk of bleeding.