Thrombocytopenic Purpura


Thrombocytopenic Purpura (Inpatient Care) Care Guide

  • Thrombocytopenic (throm-bo-si-to-PE-nik) purpura (PER-pu-rah) is a bleeding disorder where there are too few platelets in the blood. Platelets are blood cells that help stop bleeding by sticking together to form a clot. Thrombocytopenic purpura is also called immune or idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). Caregivers do not exactly know what causes ITP. It is thought that antibodies, that destroy germs, stick to the platelets and are destroyed by the liver. ITP in adults often develops slowly over a long period of time. Women are more often affected than men.

  • Signs of ITP may include petichiae (pinpoint, reddish spots) or purpura (purplish flat areas of bruising). There may also be bleeding from the gums, mouth or nose. Stools (bowel movements) may be dark-colored or may have blood in them. Women with ITP may have heavy bleeding during their monthly periods. Blood tests are needed to diagnose ITP. Treatment may include medicines, such as steroids and immune globulins. Surgery to take out the spleen may also be done. With treatment, such as medicine and surgery, you may have an improved quality of life.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


Severe thrombocytopenic purpura may cause uncontrolled bleeding in the stomach and the brain, which may be life-threatening. ITP may cause a long-term condition called chronic ITP. Treatments such as steroids, immune globulins, and surgery may have unpleasant side effects, such as bleeding and infection. Ask your caregivers for more information about your ITP and the different treatment options that are available to you.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


You may have any of the following:

  • Immune globulins: This medicine is given as a shot or an IV infusion to make your immune system stronger. You may need immune globulins to treat or prevent an infection. It is also used when you have a chronic condition, such as lupus or arthritis. You may need many weeks of treatment. Each infusion can take from 2 to 5 hours.

  • Steroids: This medicine may be given to decrease inflammation.


You may need any of the following:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.

  • Bone marrow biopsy: This is when a sample of bone marrow is removed and sent to a lab for tests. Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue inside the bone. The skin over your upper hipbone is first cleaned. Caregivers put numbing medicine into your skin so you will have little pain. A bandage is put on the biopsy area after the tissue sample is taken.

Treatment options:

Your treatment may change if your signs and symptoms are not being controlled even after taking medicines. This may be decided by your caregiver after you have further tests. You may have any of the following if your signs and symptoms are not being controlled:

  • Blood transfusion: You will get whole or parts of blood through an IV during a transfusion. Blood is tested for diseases, such as hepatitis and HIV, to be sure it is safe.

  • Medicines: Additional medicines may be needed to treat your ITP. These may include immunosuppressants, chemotherapeutic agents, and hormones. Ask your caregiver for more information about other treatment options for ITP.

  • Surgery: Surgery to remove the spleen may be done. This surgery is called a splenectomy. Ask your caregiver for more information about surgery as a treatment for ITP.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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