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Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP) Treatment

Also called: Immune thrombocytopenic purpura, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, ITP, autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura

Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) is a disorder characterized by a low number of platelets (thrombocytes). This affects the blood’s ability to form clots. Without enough platelets, a person with ITP can bleed and bruise easily. In rare cases, bleeding in the brain caused by ITP can be life threatening.

There are two main types of ITP:

  • Short-term (acute) ITP: Often occurs after a viral infection and usually lasts less than 1 year. This is the most common type of ITP. It mainly occurs in children.
  • Long-term (chronic) ITP: Often lasts 1 year or longer. It affects women 2 -3 times more often than men. Chronic ITP mostly occurs in adults, but some children and teens are affected.

The cause of ITP is thought to be an abnormal immune response. Normally, the immune system works to help the body fight off infection and disease. With ITP, the immune system attacks and destroys its own platelets, but the reasons for this are not clearly understood.

ITP is a somewhat common blood disorder. About 5 in every 100,000 children are diagnosed with ITP each year. Routine blood tests can help make the diagnosis. Find out more about immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) on the Together by St. Jude™ online resource.

Immune thrombocytopenia treatment

Some patients may not need treatment other than monitoring platelet counts and watching for signs and symptoms of bleeding. Treatment may be needed if a person’s platelet count is very low or if bleeding problems occur.

Medication is often the first-line treatment for ITP in both children and adults. Medicines may include corticosteroids, such as prednisone. Other medicines include rituximab, intravenous immune globin (IVIG) and anti-Rh (D) immunoglobulin. Some newer drugs, called eltrombopag and romiplostim, can help the body make more platelets.

Platelet transfusions are used to increase the platelet count on a short-term basis.

Immune thrombocytopenia clinical trials

St. Jude offers clinical trials and research studies for children, teens, and young adults. Learn more about clinical research at St. Jude.

NCBP01: Safety Study of Unlicensed, Investigational Cord Blood Units Manufactured by the NCBP for Unrelated Transplantation

Study goal:

The primary purpose of this study is to examine the safety of administration of the unlicensed investigational NCBP HPC-CORD BLOOD products in a multi-institution setting.

Immune thrombocytopenia care at St. Jude

St. Jude provides the highest quality of care for patients with ITP:

  • St. Jude investigators take part in the ITP Consortium of North America (ICON). This group focuses on understanding the best treatment options for children with ITP. They also work to improve quality of life for affected children and their parents.
  • A multidisciplinary team of staff at St. Jude provides the expert care needed to help families manage blood disorders.
  • St. Jude doctors and faculty members are engaged in the latest research studies. Patients who qualify for clinical trials may choose to take part.
  • Treatment programs at St. Jude are successful because the doctors and scientists work closely together to rapidly introduce promising therapies to the clinical setting.
  • At St. Jude, we have created an environment where children can be children and families can be together. 
  • The nurse-to-patient ratio at St. Jude is unmatched. It is about 1:3 in hematology and 1:1 in the Intensive Care Unit.
A statue of children running and holding hands

Seeking treatment at St. Jude

Patients accepted to St. Jude must have a disease we treat and must be referred by a physician or other qualified medical professional. We accept most patients based on their ability to enroll in an open clinical trial.

How to seek treatment

Contact the Physician / Patient Referral Office

Call: 1-888-226-4343 (toll-free) or 901-595-4055 (local)  | Fax: 901-595-4011 | Email: | 24-hour pager: 1-800-349-4334


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