High-Risk Newborns - Thrombocytopenia

What is thrombocytopenia?

Thrombocytopenia is a condition in which there are too few platelets - the cells produced in the bone marrow that are needed for clotting.

What causes thrombocytopenia?

Thrombocytopenia may be caused by infections in the fetus or newborn such as rubella, syphilis, and bacterial or viral infections. It can also develop when a mother's immune system produces antibodies against the baby's platelets. Some medications taken by the mother or given to the baby can cause thrombocytopenia.

Why is thrombocytopenia a concern?

Without enough platelets, there may be bleeding into the tissues. Bruising of the skin often occurs. With bleeding, the red blood cells break down, producing bilirubin. This substance builds up in the blood causing jaundice. Excessive bleeding, called hemorrhage, can be dangerous and can affect the brain and other body systems.

What are the symptoms of thrombocytopenia?

The following are the most common symptoms of thrombocytopenia. However, each baby may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • bruising or petechiae (small red spots on the skin)
  • signs of bleeding in other body systems
  • jaundice

The symptoms of thrombocytopenia may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your baby's physician for a diagnosis.

How is thrombocytopenia diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, laboratory testing of the blood can show decreased platelet counts.

Treatment for thrombocytopenia:

Specific treatment for thrombocytopenia will be determined by your baby's physician based on:

  • your baby's gestational age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your baby's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment will often depend on the cause of the thrombocytopenia. Blood transfusion with platelets may be needed.

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