The core list of the World Health Organisation’s Model List of Essential Medicines includes the most “efficacious, safe, and cost-effective” remedies (WHO 2015, explanatory notes). Platelet transfusion belongs to this list due to its vital importance for thousands of people with haematological disorders. Platelet transfusions are needed to save people’s lives and help them overcome some dangerous health conditions.
Platelets circulate in the blood with all other blood components. Being in a resting state, they look like small discs, all having the same size. When a blood vessel gets damaged, platelets give an immediate response. They activate and aggregate to close the tear and stop the blood leakage. Therefore, these components are responsible for maintaining hemostasis and preventing bleeding (Italiano, 2009). Normally, a healthy person has almost a trillion platelets circulating in their system. Having healthy platelet rates ensures that the body will not lose too much blood to damage, and the wounds will be quickly healed. This mechanism is vital for the survival of any individual.
If a person does not have enough platelets, they are likely to suffer from external and internal bleeding. This situation complicates their everyday life because every cut or accidental hit can potentially lead to the significant blood loss and the damage to the vessels. People with insufficient platelets often suffer from bruising, nosebleeds, and bleeding gums. Low platelet levels also complicate medical interventions. Vermylen and Peerlinck (2008) note that patients with a bleeding problem should be inspected and treated very carefully because even a simple injection or a blood test may result in significant damage. Surgical interventions are becoming lethally dangerous for such patients because they may lose too much blood during the intervention.
The condition of having a low count of blood platelet is called thrombocytopenia. It may be acquired and hereditary, immune and nonimmune (Bussel & Primiani, 2008). Thrombocytopenia may be caused by other disease and particular medical treatment. To compensate the platelet deficiency, transfusion is needed. There are many reasons why a person would need this procedure. Aplastic anaemia, leukaemia, and cancer treatment are common reasons to prescribe a patient with this type of transfusion.
Aplastic anaemia is a medical condition characterised by the deficiency of all types of blood cells, including platelets. This condition may be caused by drugs, radiation, autoimmune disorders, infection, genetics, and other factors. Prophylactic platelet transfusions are considered an essential element of supporting care. This practice decreases the risk of bleeding and makes invasive medical procedures safer for patients (British Committee for Standards in Haematology, 2009).
The word “leukaemia” is used to describe a group of cancers affecting the bone marrow and causing the overproduction of dysfunctional white blood cells. Leukemia suppresses the production of other blood cell types, leading to anaemia and thrombocytopenia. Therefore, platelet transfusions reduce the risk of complications in leukaemia patients with the insufficient count of these blood components.
Transfusions may also be needed by patients with other types of cancer. Often, they are given chemo and radiation therapy, and this treatment can damage the bone marrow, leading to thrombocytopenia. In such cases, transfusions will compensate the low count of platelets. Considering the significant number of cancer patients, the easy access to transfusion saves millions of lives around the world.
Overall, platelet transfusion is an important part of treating patients with various disorders. This procedure raises the level of blood components which stop bleeding and ensure the vascular integrity. A person with the low count of platelets suffers from various symptoms which may be life-threatening. When they ask for medical help, it is harder for clinicians to inspect and treat them due to unpredictable reactions to routine tests and procedures. Therefore, platelet transfusion should be available in every hospital in the country.
- British Committee for Standards in Haematology, 2009. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of aplastic anaemia. British Journal of Haematology, 147, pp. 43–70. Available at doi:10.1111/j.1365-2141.2009.07842.x. [Accessed 24 Sept. 2017].
- Bussel, J. B., and Primiani, A., 2008. Thrombocytopenia. In P. Gresele, V. Fuster, J. A. Lopez, C. P. Page, and J. Vermylen (eds.). Platelets in Hematological and Cardiovascular Disorders: A Clinical Handbook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Italiano, Jr. J. E., 2008. The structure and production of blood platelets. In P. Gresele, V. Fuster, J. A. Lopez, C. P. Page, and J. Vermylen (eds.). Platelets in Hematological and Cardiovascular Disorders: A Clinical Handbook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Vermylen, J., and Peerlinck, K., 2008. Clinical approach to the bleeding patient. In P. Gresele, V. Fuster, J. A. Lopez, C. P. Page, and J. Vermylen (eds.). Platelets in Hematological and Cardiovascular Disorders: A Clinical Handbook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- World Health Organisation, 2015. WHO Model List of Essential Medicines [Online] (updated Nov. 2015) Available at: http://www.who.int/medicines/publications/essentialmedicines/EML_2015_FINAL_amended_NOV2015.pdf?ua=1 [Accessed 24 Sept. 2017].