Platelet Disorders (BSH 2011)


Normal Platelet Function




Numerical & functional platelet disorders can co-exist with other bleeding disorders and be indistinguishable from one another.


Testing of platelet function highly sensitive to pre-analytical variables

  • Collect sample from a fasted, rested subject who has avoided caffeine and smoking

  • Large bore needle with low tourniquet pressure

  • Discard the first 3-5ml and then collect into a 1 in 10 volume of trisodium citrate

  • Keep at room temperature, avoid shaking and test within 4 hours


Factors affecting platelet function & test results

  • Drugs - antibiotics, antidepressants, beta-blockers, anticoagulants, analgesics

  • Misc - Dextrans, radiographic contrast, expectorants

  • Food – fat, garlic, caffeine, turmeric, alcohol, fenugreek, onion, ginger, ginseng

  • Temperature, pH

  • Platelet count above or below 200-400

  • FGN concentration

  • Sample prep and handling

  • Acquired defects – uraemia, liver disease


Platelet Function Analyser (PFA-100)


A measure of global platelet function

Used at the screening stage alongside PT, APTT, VWF, FVIII

A normal result avoids the need for more difficult, time consuming tests



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High negative predictive value

If PFA-100 if normal then primary haemostasis very likely to be intact

(Exceptions: Storage pool disorders, Primary secretion defects, mild type 1 VWD)


‘Non-Closure’ is typical of Glanzmann, Bernard-Soulier and Platelet-Type VWD

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Light Transmission Aggregometry (LTA)



Light passing through the sample is recorded as agonists are added to platelet-rich plasma and stirred at 37oC.

Confusingly, results may be charted against optical density or light transmission —> produces opposite curves.

Analytical Variables – see introduction

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A few specific cases

  • Hydroxycarbamide – abnormal ADP and Adrenaline

  • A small percentage of normal population show reduced response to adrenaline



Typical graphs when plotted using light transmission:

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Other Tests


Flow cytometry for plt receptor densities

  • Glanzmanns, Bernard-Soulier, Scott Syn

Nucleotide release assays

  • Storage pool and release defects

Whole Blood Aggregometry

  • Rarely used, unclear correlation with LTA results

Alpha Granule proteins

Electron Microscopy

Genetic Diagnosis


Congenital Platelet Disorders


Glanzmann Thrombasthenia (GT)


Autosomal recessive – ITGA2B & ITGB3 gene mutations (& >100 others)

Deficiency or functional deficiency of the GpIIb/IIIa receptor

GpIIb/IIIa mediates the aggregation of activated platelets by VWF, FGN and other proteins



  • Usually <5 y.o.

  • Purpura, epistaxis, gum bleeding (but major neonatal complications are rare)

  • May present later in adolescence as severe menorrhagia

  • Associated with angiodysplasia and GI bleeding


Natural history

  • Severity of bleeding diminishes with age

  • Except severe risk of bleeding in labour remains



  • Normal platelet count & size

  • PFA-100 non-closure

  • LTA – no response except for partial aggregation with ristocetin

  • Flow cytometry for GpIIb and GpIIIa receptor density


Bernard-Soulier Syndrome (BSS)


Autosomal recessive

Deficiency or absence of GpIb/IX/V complex

GpIb/IX/V complex is a receptor for VWF à deficiency results in defective plt adhesion



  • Usually presents in childhood

  • Epistaxis, easy bruising, gum bleeding

  • Sometimes 1st diagnosed in pregnancy, or confused with ITP



  • Macrothrombocytopenia (count anywhere from 30 to normal)

  • PFA-100 non-closure

  • LTA – no response to ristocetin

  • Flow cytometry for GpIb-alpha receptor density


Grey Platelet Syndrome


<100 cases worldwide

Storage pool disorder - Absence of alpha granules

Associated with myelofibrosis



  • Macrothrombocytopenia of typical grey appearances

  • PFA-100 normal

  • Absence of alpha-granules on electron microcopy




Autosomal recessive – CHS gene mutation

Platelet granule abnormality



  • Associated with albinism

  • Infection + lymphoproliferative disease often results in death in 1st decade of life


  • Normal platelet count

  • Peroxidase-positive cytoplasmic granules in neutrophils



Puerto Rican ethnicity (1 in 1800, compared to 0.5 per million worldwide)

Delta granule deficiency



  • Albinsim, pulmonary fibrosis, colitis

  • Early death due to fibrosis


  • Normal platelet count

  • Absent 2o wave on LTA

  • Electron microscopy


Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome


X-linked, WAS mutation —> WASP protein deficiency



  • Severe immunodeficiency, eczema


CATCH-22 Syndrome


Deletion on chromosome —> deletes 30-50 genes, including the Gp1b gene


Multi-system disorder, CATCH only some of the features

  • Cleft lip

  • Abnormal facies

  • Thymus

  • Cardiac abnormalities

  • Hypocalcaemia


Management of Congenital Platelet Disorders


General Guidance


Manage at a specialist haemophilia centre with 24-hour access to care


  • Avoid contact sports

  • Avoid aspirin / NSAIDs

Vaccinate for Hepatitis A & B, and monitor LFTs

Often iron deficient, replace as required

Manage pregnancy with a pre-written plan and MDT consultation.


Specifics to consider


Tranexamic Acid

Desmopressin – for plt storage pool disorders

Platelet transfusion

rFVIIa – licensed for use in Glanzmanns

Stem cell transplant



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