We observed several patients with chronic idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) whose bleeding times were more prolonged than would have been expected from their platelet counts. To investigate this further, we performed in vivo and in vitro platelet function studies, assessed arachidonate metabolism, and measured platelet-associated IgG (PAIGG) in seven patients with chronic ITP. The bleeding times of three of the patients were prolonged for greater than 7 min, and all of these patients had impaired platelet aggregation and abnormal platelet arachidonic acid metabolism as reflected by increased production of the lipoxygenase product HETE and a concomitant decrease in cyclooxygenase products, TXB2 and HHT (p less than 0.001). The abnormalities noted were not due to concomitant drug ingestion, since they were present on repeated evaluation. There was no relationship between the platelet count and the bleeding time; however, there was a significant inverse correlation between the bleeding time and TXB2 production in all patients evaluated (r = 0.81; p less than 0.05). There was no relationship between the level of platelet-associated IgG and any parameter of platelet aggregation or arachidonate metabolism. The abnormalities noted should be looked for in the individual patient with chronic ITP, since the bleeding tendency is exacerbated by the superimposed impairment of platelet function even at platelet counts of greater than 50,000/cu mm, levels generally regarded as “safe”.

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