Thrombocytopenia and the effect of platelet transfusions on the occurrence of intracranial hemorrhage in patients with acute leukemia - a nested case-control study

Loes L. Cornelissen, Aukje L. Kreuger, Camila Caram-Deelder, Rutger A. Middelburg, Jean Louis H. Kerkhoffs, Peter A. von dem Borne, Erik A. M. Beckers, Karen M. K. de Vooght, Jurgen Kuball, J. J. Zwaginga, Johanna G. van der Bom*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We designed a study to describe the incidence of intracranial hemorrhage according to severity and duration of thrombocytopenia and to quantify the associations of platelet transfusions with intracranial hemorrhage in patients with acute leukemia. In this case-control study nested in a cohort of 859 leukemia patients, cases (n = 17) were patients diagnosed with intracranial hemorrhage who were matched with control patients (n = 55). We documented platelet counts and transfusions for seven days before the intracranial hemorrhage in cases and in a "matched" week for control patients. Three measures of platelet count exposure were assessed in four potentially important time periods before hemorrhage. Among these leukemia patients, we observed the cumulative incidence of intracranial hemorrhage of 3.5%. Low platelet counts were, especially in the three to seven days preceding intracranial hemorrhage, associated with the incidence of intracranial hemorrhage, although with wide confidence intervals. Platelet transfusions during the week preceding the hemorrhage were associated with higher incidences of intracranial hemorrhage; rate ratios (95% confidence interval) for one or two platelet transfusions and for more than two transfusions compared with none were 4.04 (0.73 to 22.27) and 8.91 (1.53 to 51.73) respectively. Thus, among acute leukemia patients, the risk of intracranial hemorrhage was higher among patients with low platelet counts and after receiving more platelet transfusions. Especially, the latter is likely due to clinical factors leading to increased transfusion needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-271
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Hematology
Issue number1
Early online date17 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Intracranial hemorrhage
  • Acute leukemia
  • Thrombocytopenia
  • Platelet transfusions
  • Case-control study
  • C-WORD

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