There are a number of treatments that can help increase platelet levels in children with immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), but there is no cure. The majority of children with ITP get better gradually on their own in a few days, weeks or sometimes months, with or without treatment.
When treatment is necessary, the most common forms are:
- Steroids – to temporarily reduce production of antibodies and increase platelet count by slowing the rate at which the spleen destroys them
- Intravenous gamma globulin – a human blood product containing antibodies that help slow the rate at which abnormal platelets are destroyed by the spleen
- Intravenous Rh immune globulin – a human plasma product that temporarily stops the spleen from destroying platelets; children must be blood type Rh positive and still have their spleen to receive this treatment
temporarily reduce production of abnormal antibodies and increase platelet count by slowing the rate at which platelets are destroyed by the spleen
- may be taken orally
- side effects may include irritability, stomach irritation, weight gain, high blood pressure, acne or elevated levels of sugar in the urine
Intravenous gamma globulin:
- a human blood product containing many antibodies that help slow the rate at which abnormal platelets are destroyed by the spleen
- given over three to six hours through a needle inserted into a vein
- temporary side effects include fever, chills, headache, muscle and joint pain, hives, rash or allergic reactions
Intravenous Rh immune globulin:
- temporarily stops the spleen from destroying platelets
- child must have Rh-positive blood and must still have their spleen in order for this medication to be effective
- given intravenously
- temporary side effects include: mild anemia, fever, chills, headache, blood pressure changes or allergic reactions
- rarely, severe anemia from breakdown of blood cells can occur; this can possibly result in kidney damage
Other treatments for ITP may include:
- surgery to remove spleen (considered more often in older children with chronic ITP)
- hormone therapy (for teenage girls, to stop their menstrual cycle if excessive bleeding occurs)
Children with ITP also may receive antibiotics to treat infections.
Progressive or recurrent disease
Recurrence of ITP is uncommon, but it can occur up to several years after the initial episode and may be associated with another viral infection.
More than 80 percent of children with treated ITP recover on their own in days, weeks or months. Fatal brain hemorrhages rarely occur with steroid, intravenous Rh immune globulin or intravenous gamma globulin therapy.
Can my child participate in sports or other athletic activities?
The sports and activities that your child can participate in will depend on her platelet count (the severity of the ITP). Your child’s physician can make specific recommendations on the types of activities that may be appropriate for her depending on her platelet levels.
How Dana-Farber/Boston Children's approaches ITP
Children and young adults with immune thrombocytopenia are treated through the Platelet Function Disorders Program at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.
Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s seamlessly integrates two internationally-recognized research and teaching institutions that have provided comprehensive care for pediatric cancer and blood disorder patients since 1947. Working together, we provide more specialists, more programs, and more clinical trials than almost any other pediatric center treating cancer and blood disorders in the world.