Platelets (thrombocytes) are small pieces of cells that play an important role in blood clotting by clumping and forming plugs when necessary. Thrombocytopenia (throm-boh-sigh-toe-PEE-nee-uh) is a condition in which blood has too few platelets. Causes of thrombocytopenia include increased breakdown and destruction of platelets (related to a problem with the immune system), reduced production of platelets or platelets trapped in the spleen.

Thrombocytopenia can occur as a result of a separate disorder, such as leukemia, bone marrow failure (aplastic anemia), an immune system problem or as a medication side effect. The most common reason for thrombocytopenia in children is idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). Idiopathic means unknown cause. ITP occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys platelets. Recent viral infections can lead to short-term ITP in children. If ITP in children lasts longer than six months, it is known as chronic ITP.

  • Expertise and team approach. Your multidisciplinary team of experts may include pediatric hematologists, pediatric pathologists, pediatric infectious disease specialists, pediatric surgeons and immunologists who work together to provide accurate diagnosis and exceptional care for your child and support for your family.
  • Experience. Pediatric hematology specialists at Mayo have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating both common and unusual causes of thrombocytopenia. If the thrombocytopenia is caused by a bone marrow failure syndrome such as aplastic anemia, treatment might involve a bone marrow transplant or immunosuppressive therapy by experienced Mayo Clinic specialists.
  • Newest technology. Specialists at Mayo Clinic make use of the newest technology to improve chances for positive outcomes. Effective treatment of pediatric thrombocytopenia is tailored to the specific cause of the low platelets. At Mayo, complex diagnostic tools are available to identify unusual causes of low platelets.

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people. In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

At Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the treatment team for pediatric thrombocytopenia may include doctors in pediatric hematology, pediatric pathology, pediatric infectious disease, pediatric surgery, immunology and other areas, if needed. Mayo Eugenio Litta Children's Hospital is child-friendly, providing comfortable consultation rooms, imaging areas and inpatient care.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

See a list of publications by Mayo doctors on pediatric thrombocytopenia on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Nov. 20, 2012