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Thrombocytopenia Treatment

Also called: Low platelet count

Thrombocytopenia is a below-normal number of platelets (thrombocytes). Platelets are a type of blood cell. They clump together at the site of an injury to prevent blood loss. This process is known as clotting. Without enough platelets, your child can bleed and bruise easily. 

Thrombocytopenia can be severe and require urgent treatment for bleeding, or it can be minor with few problems. Because it has many possible causes, thrombocytopenia is a fairly common condition. However, no numbers are available to track exactly how often it occurs.

Thrombocytopenia symptoms

The signs and symptoms of thrombocytopenia will depend on its severity. Symptoms usually include:

  • Bruising

  • Heavy or continued bleeding from cuts or other wounds

  • Bleeding from the nose or gums

  • Heavy bleeding after dental work

  • Very heavy menstrual bleeding

  • Pinpoint-sized red spots on the skin, often at the site of local trauma or injury

Get medical care right away for any severe bleeding that will not stop even after pressure has been applied to the area.

Thrombocytopenia causes

Thrombocytopenia is usually caused by an underlying disorder. It can occur for 2 reasons:

  • The bone marrow (where all blood cells are produced) does not make enough platelets. This can be caused by a bone marrow failure syndrome or leukemia. Certain drugs, like chemotherapy medicines, can also keep the bone marrow from making enough platelets.
  • Platelets break down more quickly than usual in the bloodstream or spleen. This can be caused by conditions such as a swollen spleen (hypersplenism), immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), certain autoimmune disorders, or a bacterial infection in the blood. Being pregnant can also cause mild thrombocytopenia.

Thrombocytopenia diagnosis

Thrombocytopenia is diagnosed based on your child’s medical history, physical exam, and lab tests. Your doctor may ask you about any changes in bleeding or bruising, recent illnesses, or medicines your child is taking. 

Tests may include:

Thrombocytopenia treatment

The severity and cause of thrombocytopenia determines its treatment. Treatment may be needed if your child’s platelet count is very low or if bleeding problems occur.

Thrombocytopenia treatment may include:

  • Treating the underlying condition: After the cause is addressed, thrombocytopenia may go away on its own. For example, if the low platelet count is caused by a medicine side effect, stopping the medicine might resolve the problem.

  • Transfusions: Donated platelets can be given through a vein to increase platelets in the blood. 

  • Immunomodulatory therapy: If thrombocytopenia is caused by an autoimmune reaction, the doctor may prescribe medicines to stop the immune system from attacking the platelets.

  • Spleen removal (splenectomy): In rare cases, this treatment may be needed if the spleen is trapping too many platelets and keeping them from circulating in the bloodstream.

Thrombocytopenia clinical trials

St. Jude offers clinical trials and research studies for children, teens, and young adults with bleeding disorders. 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.

INSIGHT-HD: Investigating the Genetics of Blood Disorders

Study goal:

The main goal of this trial is to collect DNA from individuals with non-cancerous blood diseases and their family members. Researchers will use the DNA to study how genes cause and influence these diseases. All research data will be confidential.

Thrombocytopenia prognosis

The prognosis for thrombocytopenia varies widely depending on the severity of the condition and the underlying cause. Thrombocytopenia is not usually life-threatening on its own, but its underlying condition may be. Survival rates depend on the cause of thrombocytopenia.

Thrombocytopenia care at St. Jude

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

  • A multidisciplinary team of care providers at St. Jude gives the expert care needed to help families manage blood disorders.
  • 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 and improving quality of life for affected children and their caregivers.
  • St. Jude patients regularly take part in clinical trials for new therapies. Treatment programs at St. Jude are so successful because the doctors and scientists work closely together to rapidly introduce promising therapies to the clinical setting.

More reasons to choose St. Jude for care include:

  • 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 about 1:3 in hematology and oncology and 1:1 in the Intensive Care Unit. 
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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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