To estimate the incidence and causes of secondary thrombocytosis in children, a 12 month study of all patients attending a children's hospital and discovered to have a platelet count over two times the upper normal limit (> 800 x 10(9)/l) was undertaken. Data so obtained were analysed both separately and together with those from two previous studies to gain as broad a perspective as possible. Of 7916 children who had platelet counts during the study period, 36 (0.5%) produced a value > 800 x 10(9)/l; there were 19 boys and 17 girls. There was a preponderance of young infants (median age 13 months). Twenty seven of the 36 had some sort of associated infection, bacterial in 18 and viral in nine. The other nine were either recovering from anti-neoplastic chemotherapy (n = 6), were post-operative (n = 2), or simply iron deficient (n = 1). Combining these patients with those described in previous studies allowed a review of 139 unselected children with very high platelet counts. Fifty three (38%) had infections, 29 (20%) had traumatic or surgical tissue damage, 16 (11%) had malignant disease undergoing chemotherapy or surgery, and 13 (9%) had connective tissue or autoimmune disorders. Secondary thrombocytosis is not rare and is most frequently seen in very young infants after infection. It can arise in a wide variety of other circumstances including rebound from myelosuppression, iron lack, or as part of an acute phase response. It is clinically unimportant in terms of morbidity and requires no treatment other than that for the primary condition.
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