Can my mom continue to get transfusions 4 to 5 times a week to help with low platelets? Her platelets are between 4 and 5,000.

Nmtorres asked...

My mom has AML and MDS. AML is in remission, but after the MDS Chemo Shots, her platelets are in between 4 and 5000, and she gets a platelet transfusion 4 or 5 times a week. Can she continue to receive transfusions even if it takes forever, or is there a time that it is stopped?

Expert Answer

Andrew Putnam, M.D. is a Palliative Care physician at Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University.

An average platelet’s life expectancy is only about 8 days, so the benefit from a transfusion of platelets is likely to last only a couple of days. The decision is of course up to the hematologist of the patient.If a patient is otherwise doing well, then it is likely that the platelets transfusions will continue for a long time in the hopes that the general outlook will improve.

Platelets are however more difficult to obtain than other blood products and so can be more expensive and not as easily available. If a person’s disease gets worse so that there are other life threatening problems as well as the low platelet count, then the choice to continue platelet transfusions is likely to be questioned. There is no specific length of time after which the platelets are automatically stopped but platelets are a scarce resource that will be evaluated as the patient’s disease evolves