KidsMD Health Topics

Thrombocytopenia

  • Thrombocytopenia is a condition in which there are too few platelets — the cells produced in the bone marrow that are needed for clotting. Thrombocytopenia may be caused by infections in the fetus or newborn such as rubella, syphilis, and bacterial or viral infections. It can also develop when a mother's immune system produces antibodies against the baby's platelets. Some medications taken by the mother or given to the baby can cause thrombocytopenia. Without enough platelets, there may be bleeding into the tissues. Bruising of the skin often occurs. With bleeding, the red blood cells break down, producing bilirubin. This substance builds up in the blood causing jaundice. Excessive bleeding, called hemorrhage, can be dangerous and can affect the brain and other body systems.

    Patients with thrombocytopenia are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, an integrated pediatric hematology and oncology partnership between Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital.

    Thrombosis Program and Anticoagulation Service

    Boston Children's Hospital
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115

     617-355-8246 x2

  • The following are the most common symptoms of thrombocytopenia. However, each baby may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:   

    • bruising or petechiae (small red spots on the skin)
    • signs of bleeding in other body systems
    • jaundice

    The symptoms of thrombocytopenia may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your baby's physician for a diagnosis.

  • In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, laboratory testing of the blood can show decreased platelet counts. Specific treatment for thrombocytopenia will be determined by your baby's physician based on:   

    • your baby's gestational age, overall health, and medical history
    • extent of the disease
    • your baby's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
    • expectations for the course of the disease
    • your opinion or preference

    Treatment will often depend on the cause of the thrombocytopenia. Blood transfusion with platelets may be needed.

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