BACKGROUND Recent data suggest that most reactions to platelets are caused by white cell (WBC)-derived cytokines that accumulate in the plasma portion of the component during storage. On the basis of this theory, the effectiveness of two interventions to prevent reactions, poststorage WBC reduction and plasma depletion, were compared. STUDY DESIGN A multiple crossover design was used, in which platelet
components for transfusion to a patient randomly were WBC reduced after storage, or the plasma supernatant was removed. Adults >17 years of age, with a hematologic disease requiring platelet transfusion support, were eligible for the study. Patients were assessed for signs and symptoms characteristic of a reaction during, immediately after, and 1 hour after transfusion. Reactions were graded as mild, moderate, or severe. Interleukin 6 levels were also measured in the transfused platelet components. RESULTS There were 380 analyzable platelet transfusions to 30 patients. The frequency of reactions was 25.8 percent (48/186) in the transfusions of poststorage WBC-reduced platelets and 17.0 percent (33/194) in the transfusions of plasma-depleted platelets (p<0.008). The severity of the reaction was graded by the patient. Severe reactions occurred more frequently in connection with poststorage WBC-reduced platelets than with plasma-depleted platelets: 33.4 percent (16/48) versus 18.2 percent (6/33), respectively (p = 0.048). Regression analysis identified interleukin 6 as the most significant of the evaluated factors in its correlation with the risk of reaction. CONCLUSION Plasma removal is more effective than poststorage WBC reduction in preventing reactions, especially severe reactions to platelets.