Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura: from platelet aggregates to plasma.

Academic Article


  • Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) is a syndrome of severe thrombocytopenia and microangiopathic hemolytic anemia without an alternative explanation. Although some patients also have a combination of fever and neurologic and/or renal manifestations, these are not required for the diagnosis. Thus, plasmapheresis should start as soon as TTP is placed high in the differential diagnosis to prevent significant mortality. Histopathologically, TTP is characterized by widespread platelet thrombi in the microcirculation. Ultralarge von Willebrand factor (vWf) multimers found in the patient's plasma are the basis for the platelet thrombi. Recent evidence has linked the abnormal fragments of vWf with deficiency of a plasma enzyme named vWf-cleaving protease, or ADAMTS-13. While a small percentage of patients with TTP have a constitutional defect in this enzyme, many with the acute idiopathic form have an antibody to ADAMTS-13, affecting its ability to cleave vWf. The determination of the enzyme activity and the presence of its inhibitor have emerged as a potential tool in the diagnosis and prognosis of TTP. Furthermore, it helps to differentiate TTP from the hemolytic uremic syndrome, in which the level of ADAMTS-13 is expected to be normal or only slightly decreased.
  • Authors

    Author List

  • Marques MB; Mayfield CA; Blackall DP
  • Volume

  • 121 Suppl