The proposed revised World Health Organization criteria for the diagnosis of polycythemia vera (p. vera) requires two major criteria and one minor criterion or the first major criterion together with two minor criteria.
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Patients have an increased risk of cardiovascular and thrombotic events and transformation to acute myelogenous leukemia or primary myelofibrosis.[5,6,7] Age older than 65 years, leukocytosis, and a history of vascular events (bleeding or thrombosis) are associated with a poor prognosis.[5,8,9]
The primary therapy for p. vera includes intermittent, chronic phlebotomy to maintain the hematocrit below 45%, and this recommendation has been confirmed in a randomized, prospective trial, which demonstrated lower rates of cardiovascular death and major thrombosis using this hematocrit target.[10,11] The target level for women may need to be lower (e.g., hematocrit <40%), but there are no empiric data to confirm this recommendation.
Complications of phlebotomy include:
Progressive and sometimes extreme thrombocytosis and symptomatology related to chronic iron deficiency, including pica, angular stomatitis, and glossitis.
Dysphagia that is the result of esophageal webs (very rare).
(Refer to the PDQ summary on Oral Complications of Chemotherapy and Head/Neck Radiation for more information.)
In addition, progressive splenomegaly or pruritus not controllable by antihistamines may persist despite control of the hematocrit by phlebotomy. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Pruritus for more information.) If phlebotomy becomes impractical, hydroxyurea or interferon-alpha can be added to control the disease.