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BACKGROUND: Essential thrombocythemia (ET) is associated with increased risk of bleeding secondary to acquired von Willebrand syndrome (AVWS). Bleeding in ET requires urgent platelet reduction by cytoreductive therapy such as hydroxyurea or thrombocytapheresis. We report on the efficacy and safety of thrombocytapheresis in managing AVWS in a patient with ET and multivisceral transplantation.

CASE REPORT: The patient was a 51-year-old female who underwent multivisceral transplantation. Her postoperative course was complicated by bleeding from oral cavity, IV lines, gastrointestinal and upper respiratory tracts as well as vaginal bleeding, which coincided with ET flare with a platelet count of 1512 × 10(9) /L. Coagulation studies including von Willebrand factor (vWF) antigen and activity, vWF propeptide antigen, and vWF multimer analysis were consistent with AVWS. Hydroxyurea was initiated. However, due to major bleeding, rapidly increasing platelet count, and uncertainty of response to hydroxyurea being given through the enteral tube, thrombocytapheresis was initiated for rapid platelet reduction. The patient tolerated the procedure well. Platelet count was reduced from 1636 × 10(9) /L to 275 × 10(9) /L with rapid cessation of bleeding. The patient's condition stabilized over the next few days; however, bleeding recurred with increasing platelet count, which required a second thrombocytapheresis 8 days after the first one. The patient was maintained on hydroxyurea 500 mg twice/day. At 11-month follow-up, she had a normal platelet count and no recurrence of bleeding.

DISCUSSION: Thrombocytapheresis is safe and efficient in managing postoperative bleeding due to ET/AVWS in solid organ transplant patients. The procedure can be an adjunct to bridging therapy before response to hydroxyurea is achieved.

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