Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP)

What is immune thrombocytopenia?

Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), sometimes called immune thrombocytopenic purpura or idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when your child's body attacks its own platelets and destroys them too quickly. Platelets are a part of blood that helps control bleeding. ITP affects at least 3,000 children under the age of 16 each year in the United States.

In healthy children, the body produces proteins called antibodies that guard against infection. ITP causes a child’s body to make abnormal antibodies that stick to platelets, which the spleen (the organ that helps filter infections in the blood) recognizes as signs of infection and destroys. In a child with ITP, the body is producing platelets normally but also destroying them too quickly, with platelets surviving only a few hours instead of the normal seven to 10 days. The end result is a low platelet count in the blood.

How we care for ITP 

Children and young adults with immune thrombocytopenia are treated through the Blood Disorders Center at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s, where children and teens receive care from some of the world’s most experienced hematologists with deep experience in the conditions they treat.

Our areas of ITP research

Dana-Farber/Boston Children's. We are currently conducting a number of studies to improve the diagnosis and treatment of ITP and other platelet disorders.

  • ITP Consortium of North America (ICON): Boston Children's leads a North American Consortium of pediatric ITP physicians and researchers. We are conducting a multi-center research study to understand how second-line ITP treatments are selected and which second-line treatments work best to improve bleeding, quality of life, and platelet counts in pediatric refractory ITP.
  • International splenectomy registry: Researchers are collecting information internationally regarding splenectomy (surgical removal of the spleen) in young persons with ITP. This study may lead to the better understanding of the effects of splenectomy on children and young adults with ITP.
  • Intercontinental childhood ITP registry: We participate in a large, international study to help better define the long-term course in children newly diagnosed with ITP. Once this information is carefully analyzed, it may lead to the development of new treatment guidelines that will improve the care of children with ITP.
  • ITP Bleeding Study: We are participating in a research study to understand why certain children with low platelet counts have more bleeding symptoms than other children with similarly low platelet counts.

ITP clinical trials

For many children with rare or hard-to-treat conditions, clinical trials provide new options. Search our open ITP clinical trials or contact us if you’re not sure which clinical trials might be right for your child. We can help you navigate your options.