Plasmapheresis in sepsis-induced thrombotic microangiopathy: A case series

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Indian Journal of Critical Care Medicine


Introduction: Cytokines and granulocyte elastase produced in sepsis cleave a disintegrin and metalloprotease with thrombospondin type I motif 13 (ADAMTS13) and deplete its levels. By this mechanism, sepsis results in microangiopathic hemolytic anemia (MAHA) with thrombocytopenia. Hence, the hypothesis is that plasmapheresis may help in sepsis-induced thrombotic microangiopathy (sTMA), by removing the factors responsible for low levels of ADAMTS13. In tropical countries like India, the contribution of sepsis to intensive care unit (ICU) mortality is high; and hence, it is essential to look out for newer modalities of sepsis treatment. There is abundant literature on the use of plasmapheresis in sepsis but data on its use in sTMA are limited, thus necessitating further research in this field. Case description: This case series studies the outcomes of five patients admitted with sTMA in the ICU and attempts to evaluate the effectiveness of plasmapheresis in improving their outcomes. All patients diagnosed with sTMA and treated with plasmapheresis, between January 2016 and August 2018 at our tertiary care center, were selected for the study. The diagnosis of sepsis was based on sepsis-3 definition. Results: Four different gram-negative organisms were found to have caused MAHA, with the commonest source being either urinary tract infection (UTI) or lower respiratory tract infection. Three of five patients required hemodialysis and two had disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). All five had good outcome and recovered well from the acute episode post plasmapheresis. Discussion: In two of five patients, the initial smear was negative and hence the need for repeated examination of the peripheral blood smear should be kept in mind in cases of sTMAs. The median of the number of plasmapheresis sessions required in sTMA is six, which is lesser than that required for primary thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP). Hence, the duration of central line placement and the risk of catheter-related complications are low. Based on the observations made in this case study, further exploratory studies are required to evaluate the efficacy of plasmapheresis in sTMA secondary to tropical infections.

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