Therapeutic Challenges in the Management of Acute Pulmonary Embolism in a Cancer Patient with Chemotherapy-induced Thrombocytopenia



Sreh A, Nakeshree S, Krishnasamy SK, Alfasi N.


Eur J Case Rep Intern Med. 2018 Jan 31;5(1):000713. doi: 10.12890/2017_000713. 2018.


This case demonstrates the therapeutic challenges encountered when managing an acute pulmonary embolism in a cancer patient with thrombocytopenia. A 64-year-old man with a history of lung cancer receiving chemotherapy was admitted to Walsall Manor Hospital with haemodynamic instability consistent with a pulmonary embolism, proven on computed tomographic pulmonary angiogram. His platelet count was noted to be 35×10(9)/l (chemotherapy-induced thrombocytopenia). After discussions, he was deemed not suitable for thrombolysis based on risk versus benefits. The patient was initially transfused one adult dose of platelets and treated with half the therapeutic dose of low molecular weight heparin (LMWH). The same management plan was followed until the platelet count exceeded 50×10(9)/l, after which the patient was established on the full therapeutic dose of LMWH. Clinically, the patient improved and was discharged. Three months after discharge, follow-up revealed sustained clinical improvement while the patient continued to be on the full therapeutic dose of LMWH with a stable platelet count. LEARNING POINTS: Cancer patients have a three-fold higher risk of venous thromboembolism compared with non-cancer patients, but also a higher risk of bleeding, hence neoplasm is considered an absolute contraindication to thrombolysis by the European Society of Cardiologists.The management of an acute pulmonary embolism in cancer patients with thrombocytopenia is still debated. However, a few recognised medical societies and expert opinions have established recommendations on this specific area, such as the British Committee for Standards in Haematology, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the International Society of Thrombosis and Haemostasis.Expert opinion agrees on: giving the full therapeutic dose of low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) if the platelet count is above 50×10(9)/l; if it drops below 50×10(9)/l, halving the dose of LMWH with or without platelet transfusion until the platelet count improves above 50×10(9)/l; and when the platelet count is below 20-30×109/l, withholding anticoagulation and considering the insertion of an inferior vena cava filter.

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Link/DOI: 10.12890/2017_000713