Choosing Wisely: 5 Recommendations on Testing to Avoid in Pediatric Hematology

Mary Ellen Schneider

December 11, 2019

ORLANDO, Florida — There's a new Choosing Wisely list in hematology focused specifically on children, with five tests or procedures that experts advise should be avoided, with some exceptions.

The list, which was produced by an expert panel with representatives from the American Society of Hematology and the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology (ASPHO), includes five tests or procedures that are considered unnecessary. The recommendations were released at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology.

The five recommendations are:

  • Don't perform routine preoperative hemostatic testing in an otherwise healthy child with no prior personal or family history of bleeding.

  • Don't transfuse platelets in a nonbleeding pediatric patient with a platelet count greater than 10,000/mcL, unless other signs of bleeding are present, or if the patient is set to undergo an invasive procedure.

  • Don't order thrombophilia testing on children with venous access-associated thrombosis in the absence of a positive family history.

  • Don't transfuse packed RBCs for iron-deficiency anemia in asymptomatic pediatric patients when there is no evidence of hemodynamic instability or active bleeding.

  • Don't routinely administer granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) for empiric treatment of pediatric patients with asymptomatic autoimmune neutropenia in the absence of recurrent or severe bacterial and/or fungal infections.

This is the third Choosing Wisely list produced by ASH. The group released the first list in 2013 and the second in 2014. But officials at both ASH and ASPHO have received feedback over the years that there should also be a pediatric-focused list in hematology, said Sarah O'Brien, MD, of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and cochair of the expert panel that put together the recommendations.

Hemostatic Testing

The panel recommended against preoperative hemostatic screening in healthy children with no personal or family history of excessive bleeding because the test does not effectively predict who will have unexpected surgical bleeding. The testing could instead identify artifacts or disorders unrelated to bleeding risk, such as factor XII deficiency or an infection-associated, transient lupus anticoagulant, according to Veronica H. Flood, MD, of the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and a member of the expert panel.

Performing this type of testing also adds cost and stress for families, and often delays surgery.

A look at the current literature reveals that there is little evidence to support coagulation testing in healthy children undergoing surgery. "Despite all this evidence, there remain practitioners who perform such screening on a regular basis," Dr. Flood said.

For physicians concerned about bleeding risk, Dr. Flood said that existing guidelines support taking a bleeding history in preoperative patients. "This may take a little more time, but in the end will result in better results and less expense."

Platelet Transfusion

The panel recommended against platelet transfusion in nonbleeding pediatric patients with hypoproliferative thrombocytopenia and a platelet count greater than 10,000/mcL. The caveats for this recommendation are that it does not apply if there are other signs or symptoms of bleeding, if the patient is undergoing an invasive procedure, if the patient is aged 1 year or younger, or if the patient has immune-mediated thrombocytopenia, according to Rachel Bercovitz, MD, of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and a member of the expert panel.

Previous studies on the platelet transfusions in patients with hematologic malignancies have shown that 10,000/mcL is the appropriate threshold, with no difference in bleeding above that number and increased bleeding below it, Dr. Bercovitz said.

Additionally, while platelet transfusion is a safe procedure, Dr. Bercovitz said, it is not without acute and long-term risks.

Cost is also a factor. "Platelets are a limited and expensive resource," she said.

Thrombophilia Testing

Thrombophilia testing in children with a central venous catheter-associated thrombosis was once common practice but should be avoided, explained Leslie J. Raffini, MD, of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of the expert panel.

Thrombophilia does not influence the initial management of a first episode of provoked venous thrombosis, it does not inform the intensity of duration of anticoagulant therapy, and it does not predict recurrence of venous thrombosis in children, Dr. Raffini said.

In the 2013 Choosing Wisely list, ASH made the same recommendation against testing in adult patients with venous thromboembolism occurring in the setting of major transient risk factors. Thrombophilia testing is also expensive, often has to be repeated, and can be misinterpreted, Dr. Raffini said.

Packed RBC Transfusion

The panel recommended against transfusion with packed RBCs for children with iron-deficiency anemia who have no symptoms and no evidence of hemodynamic instability or active bleeding. Transfusion is appropriate if children are symptomatic or are hemodynamically unstable, said Patrick T. McGann, MD, of Cincinnati Children's Hospital and a member of the expert panel.

Rather than jump to transfusion, Dr. McGann said this group of asymptomatic and hemodynamically stable children should be treated for their iron deficiency through oral or intravenous iron. "This is not about ignoring iron deficiency."

Both are effective treatments with multiple options available, he said. But sending a child to the hospital for transfusion is a costly option that is stressful for families and only provides a temporary solution to the issue, since treatment of the underlying iron deficiency still needs to be addressed, Dr. McGann said.

G-CSF Treatment

The panel also recommended against routine administration of G-CSF in children with asymptomatic autoimmune neutropenia. Peter E. Newburger, MD, of Boston Children's Hospital and a member of the expert guideline panel, said that there is limited evidence available and no published guidelines in this area, so the panel was guided by expert opinion.

In most cases, G-CSF is not necessary because autoimmune neutropenia resolves spontaneously by age 4-5 years and the risk of serious infection is extremely low. Appropriate management includes antibiotics for acute bacterial infection, good dental hygiene, and continued immunizations, Dr. Newburger said.

G-CSF may be appropriate in limited cases to improve quality of life, but it should be started at a low dose of 1-2 mcg/kg.

In cases of serious infection, Dr. Newburger said physicians should consider alternative diagnoses, such as congenital neutropenia or myelodysplastic syndromes.

Mary Ellen Schneider can be reached at This article originally appeared on MDedge.