Hematologic Emergencies in the Postoperative Neurointensive Care Unit Setting: Illustrative Case Series and Differential Diagnosis

Rana Hanna Al Shaikh, Oluwaseun O. Akinduro, Tasneem F. Hasan, Seung Jin Lee, Ernesto Ayala, Alfredo E. Quinones-Hinojosa, Kristin A. Cushenbery, Julie E. Hammack, Jang Won Yoon, Dennis W. Dickson, William D. Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Investigating the development of acute thrombocytopenia, differential etiologies, and potentially the rare manifestation of disseminated intravascular coagulation after brain tumor resection of primary and secondary malignancies. Materials and methods: We performed a retrospective review of a case series of post-operative neurosurgical patients which developed thrombocytopenia. We applied National Library of Medicine search engine methodology using the terms disseminated intravascular coagulation and brain tumors. Results: We report clinical, radiographic, and laboratory data of four Neurointensive care unit patients that developed thrombocytopenia, three with disseminated intravascular coagulation after craniotomy, and one with heparin-induced thrombocytopenia masquerading as low grade disseminated intravascular coagulation. All four patients presented with cranial lesions and underwent neurosurgical resection. Underlying disorders included: high grade glioma, stage IV lung cancer with metastases, and meningioma. One patient survived and was able to recover after several days of hospitalization, while another patient was discharged to hospice. Search results illustrated that disseminated intravascular coagulation in the presence of glioblastoma multiforme is rare (only four patients) and may be due to a release of coagulation factors like tissue plasminogen activator, treated with antifibrinolytic agents. Searching the terms disseminated intravascular coagulation and brain tumors in the National Library of Medicine search engine yielded 116 results; eight were relevant to our study. Conclusions: Correlation of thrombocytopenia after neurosurgery for glioblastoma multiforme and disseminated intravascular coagulation is rare. It is extremely challenging to manage these patients with concomitant deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism and intracranial bleeding. Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia is common yet possesses a different hematological coagulation profile and has more pharmacologic options. Neurointensive care unit teams should recognize intraoperative and post-operative disseminated intravascular coagulation cases, and heparin-induced thrombocytopenia in the differential of post-operative thrombocytopenia with specific pharmacologic interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106019
JournalJournal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation
  • Glioblastoma multiforme
  • Hematologic disorders
  • Malignancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Rehabilitation
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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