• Pediatric Thrombocytopenia

    Thrombocytopenia is a condition in which there are too few platelets, the blood cells that prevent bleeding. Many things can cause thrombocytopenia in children, most commonly infections (especially viral infections) and destruction of platelets by the immune system (called immune thrombocytopenia or ITP). Children with thrombocytopenia may also have lower numbers of other blood cell types, such as red and white blood cells, depending on the cause.

    Without enough platelets, a child may bleed more easily, including:

    • into the skin (bruising)
    • from mucosal surfaces (nosebleeds, mouth bleeds, intestinal bleeding, urinary bleeding, and/or excessive menstrual periods) 
    • sometimes into organs. 

    Excessive bleeding, or hemorrhage, can be dangerous and affect the brain or major body functions

    Thrombocytopenia Treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's

    Children with thrombocytopenia are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through the Blood Disorders Center. Continue reading to learn more about thrombocytopenia or visit the Blood Disorders Center homepage to learn about our expertise and treatment options for this condition.

    Symptoms & Diagnosis

    Each child may experience symptoms differently, but common symptoms of thrombocytopenia include:

    • Excessive or unusual bruising
    • Petechiae (small red/purple spots on the skin)
    • Blood blisters in the mouth
    • Overt signs of bleeding 

    A physician will take a complete medical history and perform a physical examination. In addition, laboratory testing of a child’s blood can determine if the platelet count is decreased and, if so, potential causes for this.

    After all tests are completed, doctors will be able to outline the best treatment options.

    Treatment & Care Options

    Specific treatments for thrombocytopenia will be determined by your child’s physicians based on the cause and severity of the disease, as well as your child’s tolerance for medications, procedures and therapies. Mild cases may not require treatment and may resolve on their own. Blood transfusions with platelets or red blood cells are sometimes needed.

    Long-term Outlook

    Overall, the outlook for thrombocytopenia in children is good, especially if the underlying cause can be found and treated. Rarely, it can be life-threatening depending on the severity of the thrombocytopenia and the organs affected.
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