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Treatments – Thrombocytopenic Purpura

The goal of the treatment of thrombocytopenic purpura is to relieve the symptoms and place the condition into remission. The most common treatment used for thrombocytopenic purpura is a procedure called plasmapheresis, which is a blood transfusion using only the plasma of the blood. In plasmapheresis, the affected plasma of the patient is exchanged for the healthy plasma of a donor by using a special apheresis machine. This is not a surgical treatment, requiring only the placement of two IV’s in the arm of the patient. The treatment will need to be completed daily for between one and eight weeks depending on how advanced the condition has become. After treatment with plasmapheresis, the body should cease its destruction of the platelets in the body and the body’s plasma should return to normal.

Treatment of thrombocytopenic purpura with plasmapheresis is not painful, although many describe it as an uncomfortable sensation. The treatment also takes a great deal of time, around three hours for each complete session. There are several minor adverse side effects that may occur because of the treatment, such as allergic reaction to the donor plasma, which may cause a rash or wheezing, and tingling in the fingertips or around the mouth due to low calcium levels. Many individuals undergoing plasmapheresis to control thrombocytopenic purpura will need to take immunosuppressive medications as well. Because the condition is caused by the body’s immune system attacking the platelets in the blood, immunosuppressive therapy is needed to halt the destruction long enough for the body to rebuild its platelet count.

Thrombocytopenic purpura can cause a wide range of complications that may also need treatment. Individuals with an advanced case of thrombocytopenic purpura may also experience anemia, kidney failure, neurological damage, myocardial ischemia, stroke, or organ failure. Because of the possibility of a wide range of complications from the condition occurring, many individuals will need to be hospitalized for the duration of the treatment and carefully monitored for the appearance of any adverse side effects or complications. If anemia develops, the patient will require regular blood transfusions to combat the effects of the anemia and reintroduce healthy red blood cells into the circulatory system. Blood transfusions of platelets are not recommended, even though low platelet counts are a direct result of thrombocytopenic purpura, because the addition of foreign platelets may actually make the condition much worse very quickly.

If thrombocytopenic purpura does not respond to plasmapheresis as a first line treatment, additional treatment will be needed to preserve the health of the patient. Researchers and medical professionals are still unclear as what treatment works best as a second line treatment, but there are several options that may be used. One commonly used alternative treatment for thrombocytopenic purpura is using chemotherapy medications to alter the way the cells interact with the immune system. This medication is given as an injection every three or four days for a total of four doses. Giving the patient a variety of immunosuppressant medications has also been found to have an effect on the progression of thrombocytopenic purpura. With proper treatment and careful monitoring, thrombocytopenic purpura can be placed into remission and controlled effectively for a long period of time.

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