Original Research

Prevalence and aetiology of moderate and severe thrombocytopenia in a tertiary and quaternary centre in KwaZulu-Natal

Ayanda G. Jali, Bongani B. Nkambule
African Journal of Laboratory Medicine | Vol 9, No 1 | a799 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajlm.v9i1.799 | © 2020 Ayanda G.P. Jali, Bongani B. Nkambule | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 March 2018 | Published: 24 August 2020

About the author(s)

Ayanda G. Jali, Department of Haematology, Health King Edward VIII Hospital, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Durban, South Africa; and, Department of Haematology, National Health Laboratory service, Inkosi Albert Luthuli Academic Hospital, Durban, South Africa
Bongani B. Nkambule, Department of Human Physiology, School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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Background: Thrombocytopenia is a common haematological disorder, characterised by platelet counts below 150 × 109/L. The aetiology of thrombocytopenia is multifactorial; notably, in a misdiagnosis this condition may be due to pre-analytical laboratory artefacts. Knowledge about the common aetiology of thrombocytopenia will assist clinicians in decision-making and interpretation of laboratory tests and this may lead to prompt, adequate patient management and cost-saving measures.

Objective: This study determined the prevalence and aetiology of moderate and severe thrombocytopenia in a tertiary or quaternary laboratory in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective study at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital haematology laboratory between October 2015 and April 2016. A total of 2076 full blood count results with a platelet count of less than 100 × 109/L were retrieved from the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Academic Hospital database. Laboratory data were extracted and matched with clinical data and used to identify the potential aetiology of thrombocytopenia.

Results: The prevalence of thrombocytopenia was 14.9% within the selected study period. The haematology or oncology wards and clinic accounted for 55.2% of thrombocytopenia cases, whereas the adult and paediatric intensive care units accounted for 29.3%. Notably, 15.5% of thrombocytopenia cases were reported in non-haematology wards and clinics. The most common cause of thrombocytopenia was chemotherapy which accounted for 38.5% of all causes.

Conclusion: In our tertiary and quaternary setting, thrombocytopenia in adults was most common in patients admitted to haematology and oncology wards. Moreover, chemotherapy-induced thrombocytopenia accounted for more than a third of all these cases.


thrombocytopenia; prevalence; aetiology; South Africa; haematology


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