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Thrombocytopenia is one of the commonest haematological problems in neonates, affecting at least 25% of all admissions to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) [Murray NA, Howarth LJ, McCloy MP et al. Platelet transfusion in the management of severe thrombocytopenia in neonatal intensive care unit patients. Transfus Med 2002;12:35-41; Garcia MG, Duenas E, Sola MC et al. Epidemiologic and outcome studies of patients who received platelet transfusions in the neonatal intensive care unit. J Perinatol 2001;21:415-20; Del Vecchio A, Sola MC, Theriaque DW et al. Platelet transfusions in the neonatal intensive care unit: factors predicting which patients will require multiple transfusions. Transfusion 2001;41:803-8]. Although a long list of disorders associated with neonatal thrombocytopenia can be found in many textbooks, newer classifications based on the timing of onset of thrombocytopenia (early vs. late) are more useful for planning diagnostic investigations and day-to-day management. The mainstay of treatment of neonatal thrombocytopenia remains platelet transfusion although it is important to note that no studies have yet shown clinical benefit of platelet transfusion in this setting. Indeed some reports even suggest that there may be significant adverse effects of platelet transfusion in neonates, including increased mortality, and that the effects of transfusion may differ in different groups of neonates with similar degrees of thrombocytopenia [Bonifacio L, Petrova A, Nanjundaswamy S, Mehta R. Thrombocytopenia related neonatal outcome in preterms. Indian J Pediatr 2007;74:269-74; Kenton AB, Hegemier S, Smith EO et al. Platelet transfusions in infants with necrotizing enterocolitis do not lower mortality but may increase morbidity. J Perinatol 2005;25:173-7]. There is also considerable variation in transfusion practice between different countries and between different neonatal units. Here we review recent progress in understanding the prevalence, causes and pathogenesis of thrombocytopenia in the newborn, the clinical consequences of thrombocytopenia and developments in neonatal platelet transfusion.

Original publication




Journal article


Blood Rev

Publication Date





173 - 186


Bernard-Soulier Syndrome, Fanconi Anemia, Guidelines as Topic, Humans, Infant, Newborn, Intensive Care Units, Neonatal, Platelet Count, Platelet Transfusion, Purpura, Thrombocytopenic, Idiopathic, Thrombocytopenia, Thrombocytopenia, Neonatal Alloimmune, Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome