Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Student Scholarship

Date Written

Summer 2015

Document Type


Course Number

NURS 5330

Course Name

Advanced Pathophysiology

Professor’s Name

John D. Chovan, James R. Cacchillo


Blood Platelets, Autoantibodies, Bruising, Bleeding

Subject Categories

Immune System Diseases | Medical Pathology | Medicine and Health Sciences | Nursing


Immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), formerly known as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, is a relatively rare, but potentially life threatening autoimmune disorder that involves the destruction of platelets by autoantibodies. The resultant decreased platelet count leaves the patient at risk for excessive bruising and bleeding (Hunt, 2010). ITP can occur in both adults and children, and also occurs as an acute or chronic disorder. It is thought that the cause of acute ITP may differ from that of chronic ITP, however, the underlying disease processes that occur are very similar (Johnsen, 2012). Acute ITP, the most common form of the disease, most often occurs in children (Hunt, 2010). It is estimated that acute ITP occurs in as many as 6.4 per 100,000 children per year (Deane, 2014). Most children diagnosed with acute ITP have a history of a recent viral infection, usually occurring three to four weeks prior to diagnosis. The majority of cases are relatively mild and nearly 50 percent of these cases will resolve within two months. The most serious, but very rare, complication of ITP is intracranial hemorrhage (Maher, 2014). Throughout my experience in pediatric hematology/oncology, I have cared for a number of patients diagnosed with acute ITP. Although ITP is generally treated by specialists in hematology, most patients present to their primary care practitioner with the onset of signs and symptoms. Thrombocytopenia can also be seen in other hematological and oncological diseases and often, ITP is a diagnosis of exclusion. It is important that primary care practitioners that treat both adults and children recognize the presenting symptoms of this disease to begin the proper work-up. Although this disorder is rare, it is essential for practitioners to be aware of this condition to consider it as a potential diagnosis and identify patients at risk for severe complications of the disease.



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