Published online May 6, 2013. doi: 10.5315/wjh.v2.i2.20
Revised: December 21, 2012
Accepted: January 5, 2013
Published online: May 6, 2013
Essential thrombocythemia (ET) and polycythemia vera (PV) frequently present with erythromelalgia and acrocyanotic complications, migraine-like microvascular cerebral and ocular transient ischemic attacks (MIAs) and/or acute coronary disease. The spectrum of MIAs in ET range from poorly localized symptoms of transient unsteadiness, dysarthria and scintillating scotoma to focal symptoms of transient monocular blindness, transient mono- or hemiparesis or both. The attacks all have a sudden onset, occur sequentially rather than simultaneously, last for a few seconds to several minutes and are usually associated with a dull, pulsatile or migraine-like headache. Increased hematocrit and blood viscosity in PV patients aggravate the microvascular ischemic syndrome of thrombocythemia to major arterial and venous thrombotic complications. Phlebotomy to correct hematocrit to normal in PV significantly reduces major arterial and venous thrombotic complications, but fails to prevent the platelet-mediated erythromelalgia and MIAs. Complete long-term relief of the erythromelalgic microvascular disturbances, MIAs and major thrombosis in ET and PV patients can be obtained with low dose aspirin and platelet reduction to normal, but not with anticoagulation. Skin punch biopsies from the erythromelalgic area show fibromuscular intimal proliferation of arterioles complicated by occlusive platelet-rich thrombi leading to acrocyanotic ischemia. Symptomatic ET patients with erythromelalgic microvascular disturbances have shortened platelet survival, increased platelet activation markers β-thromboglobulin (β-TG), platelet factor 4 (PF4) and thrombomoduline (TM), increased urinary thromboxane B2 (TXB2) excretion, and no activation of the coagulation markers thrombin fragments F1+2 and fibrin degradation products. Inhibition of platelet cyclooxygenase (COX1) by aspirin is followed by the disappearance and no recurrence of microvascular disturbances, increase in platelet number, correction of the shortened platelet survival times to normal, and reduction of increased plasma levels of β-TG, PF4, TM and urinary TXB2 excretion to normal. These results indicate that platelet-mediated fibromuscular intimal proliferation and platelet-rich thrombi in the peripheral, cerebral and coronary end-arterial microvasculature are responsible for the erythromelalgic ischemic complications, MIAs and splanchnic vein thrombosis. Baseline platelet P-selectin levels and arachidonic acid induced COX1 mediated platelet activation showed a highly significant increase of platelet P-selectin expression (not seen in ADP and collagen stimulated platelets), which was significantly higher in JAK2V617F mutated compared to JAK2 wild type ET.