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Case report.


57-year-old man


--Lack of energy

--Petechiae on the abdomen and legs

--Abnormal blood test results, including an elevate PSA


A 57-year-old Hispanic man sought treatment because he had been feeling tired for a few weeks. He had not seen a physician for 15 years. When he came in, his temperature was 98.8[degrees]F, blood pressure was 132/82 mm Hg, pulse was 82 beats/min, respiration rate was 16 breaths/min, and oxygen saturation was 93% on room air. Examination of the head, neck, and respiratory and cardiovascular systems was normal. Skin examination showed petechiae and bruising on his abdomen, left ankle, right thigh, and bilateral shin area. His abdomen was nontender with no organomegaly. There was no focal neurological finding or spinal tenderness. Our patient had no chills, chest pains, shortness of breath, headache, dizziness, or loss of consciousness. There was no hematemesis, melena, hematuria, edema, or weight loss. He had no medical or surgical history and denied substance abuse or taking any medications recently; he did use alcohol previously.

Results of some Initial lab tests were abnormal, including a decreased white blood cell count (5.82/mcL), platelet count (29 x [10.sup.3]/mcL), hemoglobin (8.6 g/dL), and hematocrit (27%) (TABLE). A peripheral blood smear showed decreased normocytic red blood cells and scattered schistocytes. His prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level was elevated at 212 ng/mL

The patient's coagulation profile was normal, and his von Willebrand factor (vWF) protease (ADAMTS-13) level was within normal limits (13.83). Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody and antinuclear antibody tests were negative. Testing for pulmonary embolism was negative, as was testing for human immunodeficiency virus. An abdominal ultrasound was normal, as well.


Based on our patient's abnormal blood test results and the presence of petechiae and bruising, we diagnosed thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP). The patient's elevated PSA prompted us to order computed tomography of the chest and abdomen, which showed an enlarged prostate gland and mixed lytic sclerotic lesions in T3 to T5 and T9 vertebrae and in his ribs. A bone marrow biopsy revealed metastatic prostatic adenocarcinoma and a bone scan confirmed multiple metastases in the spine, pelvis, and shoulders.


TTP is a rare disorder of increased clotting in small blood vessels throughout the body that can include thrombocytopenia, microangiopathic hemolytic anemia (MAHA), fever, renal dysfunction, and neurological deficits. (1) It's important to maintain a high index of suspicion for TTP because the condition is a hematologic medical emergency that can quickly cause multiorgan failure and death. (2)

Almost always an acquired condition, TTP can be idiopathic or secondary to another condition, such as collagen vascular diseases, transplants, certain drugs, infections, pregnancy, or cancer. (3) In idiopathic TTP, the cause of the condition is believed to be reduced activity of AD AMTS-13, the protease that breaks vWF into smaller pieces--thus preventing the formation of unnecessary blood clots.

In cancer-associated TTP, which could be a complication resulting from chemotherapy or a manifestation of cancer itself, (3) ADAMTS-13 level is normal and the condition is likely the result of an increased tumor cell load, which leads to endothelial damage and fragmentation of red blood cells (RBC) as they traverse the injured microvasculature. (4) In an analysis of 154 cases of "solid" cancer-related MAHA, Lechner and Obermeier (5) found 23 cases were related to prostate cancer, as was the case with our patient.

* Treatment for TTP is plasma exchange. The mortality rate of untreated TTP can exceed 90%, but plasma exchange therapy has reduced that rate to <20%. (6) It has been suggested that proteolysis of vWF may play a central role in the efficacy of plasma exchange for TTP. (7)

* Our patient was hospitalized and received 2 units of packed RBCs. He also received plasma exchange for 9 days with minimal response. On Day 5, our patient was started on leuprorelin and parenteral steroids. Soon after, his platelet count rose to 33 x [10.sup.3]/mcL and lactate dehydrogenase decreased. He was discharged approximately one week after the steroids were started.

After several months of outpatient treatment with leuprorelin and bicalutamide, the patient's platelet count normalized to 212 x [10.sup.3]/mcL (from 29 x [10.sup.3]/mcL), alkaline phosphatase decreased to 402 U/L (horn 1919 U/L), and PSA levels trended downward to 8.63 ng/mL (from 212 ng/mL). He continued to receive care from our oncology clinic for the next several months and his PSA level continued to decline. However, at his last few visits, his PSA level had trended up, suggesting progression of his prostate cancer. The patient has not followed up with our clinic recently.


Suspect TTP in patients who present with unexplained petechiae and bruising, and whose blood work reveals thrombocytopenia and MAHA. (2) Patients with TTP who do not respond to plasma exchange should be evaluated for underlying cancer or other potential secondary causes. (3) Patients with cancer-associated TTP may respond to steroid therapy.


(1.) Lichtin AE, Schreiber AD, Hurwitz S, et al. Efficacy of intensive plasmapheresis in thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura. Archives Intern Med. 1987;147:2122-2126.

(2.) Blombery P, Scully M. Management of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura: current perspectives. J Blood Med. 2014;5:15-23.

(3.) Chang JC, Naqvi T. Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura associated with bone marrow metastasis and secondary myelofibrosis in cancer. Oncologist. 2003; 8:375-380.

(4.) Pirrotta MT, Bucalossi A, Forconi F, et al. Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura secondary to an occult adenocarcinoma. Oncologist. 2005;10:299-300.

(5.) Lechner K, Obermeier HL. Cancer-related microangiopathic hemolytic anemia: clinical and laboratory features in 168 reported cases. Medicine (Baltimore). 2012;91: 195-205.

(6.) Oberic L, Buffet, M, Scwarzinger M, et al; Reference Center for the Management of Thrombotic Microangiopathies. Cancer awareness in atypical thrombotic microangiopathies. Oncologist. 2009;14:769-779.

(7.) Zheng X, Chung D, Takayama TK, et al. Structure of von Willebrand factor-cleaving protease (ADAMTS 13), a metallo-protease involved in thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura. J Biol Chem. 2001;276:41059-41063.

Smita Subramaniam, MD; Elie Choufani, MD; Andrey Manov, MD John Peter Smith Hospital, Fort Worth, Tex

The authors reported no potential conflict of interest relevant to this article.
A look at the lab results

Test                          Our patient's result

White blood cell count        5.82/mcL
Platelet count                29 x [10.sup.3]/mcL
Hemoglobin                    8.6 g/dL
Hematocrit                    27%
Aspartate aminotransferase    69 U/L
Alkaline phosphatase          1919 U/L
Lactate dehydrogenase         3500 U/L
Iron                          296 mcg/dL
Ferritin                      2491 ng/mL
Haptoglobin                   <7 mg/dL
Reticulocyte count            3.58 x [10.sup.3]/mcL
Fibrin degradation product    >40 mcg/mL

Test                          Reference range

White blood cell count        4500-11,000/mcL
Platelet count                150-3 50 x [10.sup.3]/mcL
Hemoglobin                    14-17.5 g/dL
Hematocrit                    41%-50%
Aspartate aminotransferase    10-30 U/L
Alkaline phosphatase          30-120 U/L
Lactate dehydrogenase         100-200 U/L
Iron                          60-150 mcg/dL
Ferritin                      15-200 ng/mL
Haptoglobin                   26-185 mg/dL
Reticulocyte count            24-75 x [10.sup.3]/mcL
Fibrin degradation product    <10 mcg/mL
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:diagnosis of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura
Author:Subramaniam, Smita; Choufani, Elie; Manov, Andrey
Publication:Journal of Family Practice
Article Type:Case study
Date:Oct 1, 2014
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