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What are platelet function disorders?

Platelets are cells in the blood stream that help the blood to clot in order stop bleeding. Children with a platelet function disorder may not be able to clot normally which results in an increased risk of bleeding. Platelet function disorders in children can be from several root causes, including external factors and genetics.

How we care for platelet function disorders

Children with all types of abnormal platelet function are treated through the Platelet Function Disorders Program within the Blood Disorders Center at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s. Our program includes pediatric hematologists with specialized expertise in diagnosing and treating all types of childhood platelet disorders. We provide comprehensive care to children and adolescents, including access to the most recent treatments and to unique clinical trials. Our team includes world renowned researchers who are seeking to better understand and treat pediatric platelet disorders.

Our areas of research for platelet function disorders

Physician-scientists at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s are world leaders in research into platelet function disorders and are active members of The Center for Platelet Research Studies, an internationally recognized multidisciplinary center for the study of platelet function by state of the art methods. The center undertakes basic, translational, and clinical research, including clinical trials of drugs, devices, and tests. For many children with rare or hard-to-treat conditions, clinical trials provide new options.

Platelet Function Disorders | Symptoms & Causes

What are the symptoms of platelet function disorders?

The most common symptoms of a platelet function disorder are:

  • purpura (purple color of the skin after blood has leaked under it forming a bruise, often from no known trauma)
  • petechiae (tiny red dots under the skin that are a result of very small bleeds into the skin)
  • nosebleeds
  • bleeding in the mouth and/or in and around the gums
  • blood in vomit, urine or stool
  • bleeding in the head (most dangerous symptom that can be life-threatening, usually prompted by head trauma)

What causes platelet function disorders?

The causes of a platelet function disorders will depend on if it is acquired or genetic. Talk to your doctor about diagnosing your child's platelet function disorder.

Platelet Function Disorders | Diagnosis & Treatments

How are platelet function disorders diagnosed?

Platelet function conditions can be identified through the following tests:

  • careful review of medical  history, including medications
  • complete blood count
  • examination of the blood under the microscope by an expert pediatric hematologist
  • blood tests of platelet function
  • genetic tests

What are the treatment options for platelet function disorders?

If your child has a platelet function disorder, these treatments may be considered:
  • a number of medicines can help reduce the risk of bleeding
  • platelet transfusions can be given if necessary
  • in the most severe cases, possible bone marrow transplantation

Caring for a child with a platelet function disorder

Preventing serious bleeding is a very important aspect of care. Parents should consider:

  • padding the crib
  • restricting certain contact sports and rough play

Avoiding medications that may interfere with platelet function and cause bleeding. This includes aspirin, ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil, naproxen, Naprosyn, Aleve. Always speak to your doctor about what medications are being taken.

Platelet Function Disorders | Programs & Services