Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura


  • Untreated mortality is >90%
  • Similar clinical symptoms but different pathophysiology than HUS
    • HUS more common in pediatrics
  • Microangiopathic Hemolytic Anemia (MAHA) + low Platelets is TTP until proven otherwise
    • MAHA is non-immune hemolysis (Coomb's-negative hemolysis) causing RBC fragmentation producing schistocytes
  • Can occur as a result of Plavix (clopidogrel) use, especially within the first 2 weeks


  • Insufficient ADAMTS-13 activity allows vWF multimers to accumulate in microcirculation which leads to platelet aggregation/thrombocytopenia and hemolysis of RBCs. Platelet clots are transient, but the symptoms especially neuro, can be in flux.

Risk Factors

Clinical Features[1]

Pentad (rarely all present)

  1. Microangiopathic Hemolytic Anemia (MAHA)
  2. Thrombocytopenia
  3. Fever
  4. Renal pathology
  5. CNS abnormalities (headache, seizure, altered mental status, CVA, coma)
    • Neuro symptoms are often transient, may not be present in ED
TTP pentad mnemonic = FAT RN
  • Fever, Anemia, Thrombocytopenia, Renal, Neuro Symptoms
  • All features DO NOT need to be present at the same time
  • Consider diagnosis without the full pentad

Differential Diagnosis

Microangiopathic Hemolytic Anemia (MAHA)


Decreased production

Increased platelet destruction or use

Drug Induced

Comparison by Etiology

↓ PLT Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
↑PT/INR No No No +/- Yes
MAHA No Yes Yes No Yes
↓ Fibrinogen No No No No Yes
Ok to give PLT Yes No No No Yes


  • CBC with peripheral smear (anemia, microspherocytes, thrombocytopenia are suggestive findings)
    • Microangiopathic hemolytic anemia produces schistocytes
  • LDH (elevated)
  • Haptoglobin (decreased)
  • Reticulocyte count (appropriate)
  • Urinalysis (hemoglobinuria)
  • Creatinine (possibly elevated)
  • LFTs (increased bilirubin)
  • PT/PTT/INR (normal; differentiates from DIC)
  • Urine pregnancy (significant association between pregnancy and TTP)
  • Gel electrophoresis


Management ideally done in consultation with heme/onc[2]

  • Plasma exchange (plasmapheresis)
    • Replaces defective or insufficient ADAMTS-13 and clears vWF multimers
  • Transfusion of pRBCs (only severe bleeding)
    • Generally only indicated if plasma exchange cannot be performed immediately
  • FFP Transfusion
    • Contains ADAMTS-13
    • Should only be initiated if delay in plasmapheresis
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Splenectomy - 2nd line therapy after stabilization
    • Inhibitor antibody is made in the spleen
  • Platelet transfusion is AVOIDED
    • Only used for life-threatening bleeding or intracranial hemorrhage under guidance from hematologist
    • Platelet infusion may lead to acutely worsened thrombosis, renal failure, and death


  • Admit for plasma exchange

See Also


  1. George J: Clinical practice. Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura. N Engl J Med 2006; 354:1927
  2. George J. How I treat patients with thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura: 2010. Blood 2010; 116:4060
  3. Bell WR, Braine HG, Ness PM, Kickler TS. Improved survival in thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura-hemolytic uremic syndrome. Clinical experience in 108 patients. N Engl J Med 1991; 325:398.
  4. Balduini CL, Gugliotta L, Luppi M, et al. High versus standard dose methylprednisolone in the acute phase of idiopathic thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura: a randomized study. Ann Hematol 2010; 89:591.