Thromboembolic phenomena have been described in patients with thalassaemia intermedia and major, although there are relatively few epidemiological data on the overall frequency of these complications. To obtain more insight into the risk and mechanism of venous thromboembolism in thalassaemia, the aims of this study were: (i) to establish retrospectively the prevalence of thromboembolic events in a large group of adults with thalassaemia intermedia and major during a follow up period of 10 years; (ii) to measure in subgroups of these patients sensitive markers of activation of coagulation and fibrinolysis enzymes; and (iii) to look for possible procoagulant mechanisms. A high prevalence of thromboembolic events was found, particularly in splenectomized patients with thalassaemia intermedia (29%). These patients had high plasma levels of markers of coagulation and fibrinolysis activation. Furthermore, thalassaemic red cells and erythroid precursors from splenectomized patients with thalassaemia intermedia had an enhanced capacity to generate thrombin. To evaluate the role of splenectomy per se on procoagulant activity, we evaluated the capacity to form thrombin in healthy individuals who had been splenectomized for trauma. They produced the same amount of thrombin as non-splenectomized controls. In conclusion, the results of this study show the existence of a hypercoagulable state in splenectomized patients with thalassaemia intermedia and that their red and erythroid cells are capable of acting as activated platelets in thrombin generation.
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