Primary immune thrombocytopenia: A 'diagnosis of exclusion'?

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Blood Coagulation and Fibrinolysis


Current diagnosis of primary immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) is presumptive, centered on excluding other causes of thrombocytopenia. The diagnosis of ITP is challenging because of the wide range of potential inherited and acquired causes of thrombocytopenia. The treatment of ITP is empiric with steroids, high-dose immunoglobulin, immunosuppressants and thrombopoietin agonists with potential side effects. We searched Medline and Cochrane databases, reviewed the study data and analyzed the individual diagnostic tests for their evidence-based role in the diagnosis of ITP. We then analyzed the strength of the scientific evidence for each diagnostic test in the diagnosis of ITP and identified gaps in the diagnostic accuracy. The diagnostic challenges in ITP include: insufficient evidence for the individual test for diagnosis of ITP, no standardized protocol/guideline for diagnosis, hurdles in accessing the available resources and failure to correlate the clinical data while reviewing the blood smear. We did not identify a diagnostic test that clinicians can use to confirm the diagnosis of ITP. In the absence of a diagnostic test of proven value in ITP, the clinician is best served by a comprehensive history and physical examination, complete blood count and review of the peripheral blood smear in evaluating thrombocytopenia.

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