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Thrombocytopenia of Severe Alcoholism

DALE H. COWAN, M.D.; and JOHN D. HINES, M.D.
[+] Article and Author Information

Supported in part by grant AM 05420-06 and AM 00745-16 from the National Institutes of Health, and grant MH 15735-03 from the National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md.

Dr. Hines is a George M. Piersol Research Scholar of the American College of Physicians, Philadelphia, Pa.

▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to Dale H. Cowan, M.D., Department of Medicine, Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital, 3395 Scranton Rd., Cleveland, Ohio 44109


Cleveland, Ohio


Ann Intern Med. 1971;74(1):37-43. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-74-1-37
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Factors related to transitory alcohol-related thrombocytopenia were studied in 43 severely alcoholic patients. Initial platelet counts were less than 100,000/ µl in 15 patients; 100,000 to 150,000/ µl in 20; and over 150,000/ µl in 8. There was no correlation between the platelet counts and the hematocrits, white cell counts, serum or red cell folate levels, or liver function tests. Thrombocytopenia developed in one hospitalized patient who ingested alcohol and persisted despite administration of pharmacologic doses of folic acid and pyridoxal phosphate. Platelets, counted daily in 19 patients, increased twofold to nineteenfold without institution of specific therapy; peak counts occurred 5 to 18 days after admission. Recovery from thrombocytopenia was unrelated to the initial platelet counts or folate levels. Thrombocytopenia commonly occurs in severely alcoholic patients, often unaccompanied by other hematologic abnormalities or folate deficiency and appears to be a direct effect of alcohol. Effective treatment is cessation of alcohol ingestion.

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