Approximately 85 to 90 percent of cases of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) in children are of the acute, self-limited variety that generally occurs after a viral infection. The remaining 10 to 15 percent of children with this disorder have the chronic (autoimmune) type of ITP. For these patients, splenectomy is often the recommended treatment if severe bleeding occurs and platelet counts remain below 40,000/mm3. However, splenectomy has associated risks and the response to this surgery cannot always be predicted. Intravenous gamma globulin (IVIG) has proven useful as an alternative to splenectomy, especially in children who are considered too young for splenectomy or in those in whom there is no response to splenectomy. It should be noted that booster shots are frequently required and the patient's ITP may become refractory. IVIG may also be useful in preparing a child with ITP for splenectomy and in treating children or adolescents with ITP who have central nervous system or other serious hemorrhages. Although IVIG is not always effective in raising the platelet count, it does provide a very useful alternative method of treating this disorder.
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