In patients with immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) refractory to corticosteroids and intravenous immunoglobulins (IVIG), splenectomy may result at higher risk of peri-operative complications and, for this reason, potentially contraindicated. The thrombopoietin receptor agonists (TPO-RAs) romiplostim and eltrombopag have shown high therapeutic activity in primary ITP, but data of efficacy and safety regarding their use in preparation for splenectomy are missing. Thirty-one adult patients, median age 50 years, with corticosteroids and/or IVIG refractory persistent and chronic ITP who were treated with TPO-RAs (romiplostim= 24; eltrombopag= 7) with the aim to increase platelet count and allow a safer execution of splenectomy were retrospectively evaluated. Twenty-four patients (77%) responded to the use of TPO-RAs with a median platelet count that increased from 11 × 109/L before starting TPO-RAs to 114 × 109/L pre-splenectomy, but a concomitant treatment with corticosteroids and/or IVIG was required in 19 patients. Twenty-nine patients underwent splenectomy while two patients who responded to TPO-RAs subsequently refused surgery. Post-splenectomy complications were characterized by two Grade 3 thrombotic events (1 portal vein thrombosis in the patient with previous history of HCV hepatitis and 1 pulmonary embolism), with a platelet count at the time of thrombosis of 260 and 167 × 109/L, respectively and one Grade 3 infectious event. TPO-RAs may represent a therapeutic option to improve platelet count and reduce the risk of peri-operative complications in ITP candidates to splenectomy. An increased risk of post-splenectomy thromboembolic events cannot be ruled out and thromboprophylaxis with low-molecular weight heparin is generally recommended.
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