In childhood idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), both intravenous high-dose steroids and immunoglobulin treatments have been demonstrated to raise platelet counts reliably and in most cases within 72 h, when used as separate therapeutic modalities. However, until now, the preferred emergency management of life-threatening complications in children with ITP has been immediate splenectomy. Since steroids and immunoglobulin create a partial splenic dysfunction, through different mechanisms, we investigated whether combined treatment with both drugs could produce a rapid platelet count increase comparable to that of splenectomy. Eleven patients, ages 4 months to 6 years, with a diagnosis of acute ITP were entered into this pilot study. Treatment consisted of intravenous high-dose methylprednisolone (20 mg/kg in 30 min) followed by intravenous gamma globulin (Gamimune-N, 1 g/kg over 5 h). The combined therapy resulted in rapid increments in the platelet counts of all patients within the 24-hour period. At 12-h, in particular, 9/11 patients had platelet counts of 30 × 109/1 or more. We conclude that this combined therapy provides a prompt rise in platelet counts to a safe and hemostatic level and may offer a viable alternative for emergency splenectomy and its associated morbidity/mortality in many cases of childhood ITP.

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