Because up to 12% of obstetric patients meet criteria for the diagnosis of thrombocytopenia in pregnancy, it is not infrequent that the anesthesiologist must decide whether to proceed with a neuraxial procedure in an affected patient. Given the potential morbidity associated with general anesthesia for cesarean delivery, thoughtful consideration of which patients with thrombocytopenia are likely to have an increased risk of spinal epidural hematoma with neuraxial procedures, and when these risks outweigh the relative benefits is important to consider and to inform shared decision making with patients. Because there are substantial risks associated with withholding a neuraxial analgesic/anesthetic procedure in obstetric patients, every effort should be made to perform a bleeding history assessment and determine the thrombocytopenia etiology before admission for delivery. Whereas multiple other professional societies (obstetric, interventional pain, and hematologic) have published guidelines addressing platelet thresholds for safe neuraxial procedures, the US anesthesia professional societies have been silent on this topic. Despite a paucity of high-quality data, there are now meta-analyses that provide better estimations of risks. An interdisciplinary taskforce was convened to unite the relevant professional societies, synthesize the data, and provide a practical decision algorithm to help inform risk-benefit discussions and shared decision making with patients. Through a systematic review and modified Delphi process, the taskforce concluded that the best available evidence indicates the risk of spinal epidural hematoma associated with a platelet count ≥70,000 × 106/L is likely to be very low in obstetric patients with thrombocytopenia secondary to gestational thrombocytopenia, immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy in the absence of other risk factors. Ultimately, the decision of whether to proceed with a neuraxial procedure in an obstetric patient with thrombocytopenia occurs within a clinical context. Potentially relevant factors include, but are not limited to, patient comorbidities, obstetric risk factors, airway examination, available airway equipment, risk of general anesthesia, and patient preference.
Anesthesia & Analgesia: June 2021 – Volume 132 – Issue 6 – p 1531-1544