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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).

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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:

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:

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:

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:

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.

Related Information

Platelet count
RBC count
Hemolytic-uremic syndrome
Acute kidney failure
Stroke

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.

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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.

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