Spanish Version
 
E-mail Form
Email Results

 
 
Print-Friendly
Bookmarks
bookmarks-menu

Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura

TTP

Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) is a blood disorder in which platelet clumps form in small blood vessels. This leads to a low platelet count (thrombocytopenia).

Causes

This disease may be caused by problems with an enzyme (a type of protein) that is involved in blood clotting. This enzyme is called ADAMTS13. Absence of this enzyme results in platelet clumping. Platelets are a part of the blood that aids in blood clotting.

As the platelets clump together, fewer platelets are available in the blood in other parts of the body to help with clotting. This can lead to bleeding under the skin.

In some cases, the disorder is passed down through families (inherited). In these cases, people are born with naturally low levels of this enzyme.

This condition also may be caused by:

  • Cancer
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation
  • HIV infection
  • Hormone replacement therapy and estrogens
  • Medicines (including ticlopidine, clopidogrel, quinine, and cyclosporine A)

Symptoms

Symptoms may include any of the following:

Exams and Tests

Tests that may be ordered include:

Treatment

You may have a treatment called plasma exchange. It removes your abnormal plasma and replaces it with normal plasma from a healthy donor. Plasma is the liquid part of blood that contains blood cells and platelets. Plasma exchange also replaces the missing enzyme.

The procedure is done as follows:

  • First, you have your blood drawn as if donating blood.
  • As the blood is passed through a machine that separates blood into its different parts, the abnormal plasma is removed and your blood cells are saved.
  • Your blood cells are then combined with normal plasma from a donor, and then given back to you.

This treatment is repeated daily until blood tests show improvement.

People who do not respond to this treatment or whose condition often returns may need to:

  • Have surgery to remove their spleen
  • Get medicines that suppress the immune system, such as steroids or rituximab

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most people who undergo plasma exchange recover completely. But some people die of this disease, especially if it is not diagnosed right away. In people who do not recover, this condition can become long-term (chronic).

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

  • Kidney failure
  • Low platelet count (thrombocytopenia)
  • Low red blood cell count (caused by the premature breakdown of red blood cells)
  • Nervous system problems
  • Severe bleeding (hemorrhage)
  • Stroke

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have any unexplained bleeding.

Prevention

Because the cause is unknown, there is no known way to prevent this condition.

References

Abrams CS. Thrombocytopenia. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 172.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura. www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/thrombotic-thrombocytopenic-purpura. Accessed March 1, 2019.

Schneidewend R, Epperla N, Friedman KD. Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura and the hemolytic uremic syndrome. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Silberstein LE, et al, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 134.

  • Blood cells

    Blood cells - illustration

    Blood is comprised of red blood cells, platelets, and various white blood cells.

    Blood cells

    illustration

    • Blood cells

      Blood cells - illustration

      Blood is comprised of red blood cells, platelets, and various white blood cells.

      Blood cells

      illustration

    Tests for Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura

     
     

    Review Date: 1/29/2019

    Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

    The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
    adam.com

     
     
     

     

     

    A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.
    Content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.