Screening exams can help find disease at its earliest stage, when the chances for successful treatment are greatest. These tests are usually done when you are healthy and have no specific symptoms.

Unlike with some other diseases, however, there are currently no recommended screenings for thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) when a patient has no signs or symptoms.

One of the best ways to detect TTP at the earliest possible point — when options for treatment are best — is to see a medical expert at the first sign of symptoms.

The world-renowned medical research experts at the OSUCCC – James are studying a number of different ways to detect TTP earlier, so that treatment can begin as soon as possible.

Diagnosing Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura

To test for thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), the OSUCCC – James experts may conduct a variety of tests, including:

Physical Exam and Medical History

Your doctor will examine you for overall health and signs of bruising or bleeding under your skin, fever, jaundice or paleness. You’ll also discuss your medical history, especially about risk factors for TTP such as:

  • Having cancer, HIV, infections or lupus or if you are currently pregnant
  • Having a history of medical procedures such as blood- and marrow- stem cell transplants
  • Use of certain medications, including chemotherapy
  • Use of products containing quinine

Blood Tests

The OSUCCC – James diagnostic experts use the following blood and laboratory tests to diagnose TTP:

Complete Blood Count

By using a small sample of blood drawn from your arm, this test can measure the amount of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in your blood. TTP causes an abnormally low count of platelets and red blood cells.

Blood Smear

Blood cells can be examined in a laboratory by smearing them on a slide and analyzing them under a microscope. For patients with TTP, their red blood cells appear torn or broken.

Platelet Count

With a blood smear test, experts can also count how many platelets are in the blood. For patients with TTP, their platelet count is extremely low.

Bilirubin Test

Bilirubin is a substance formed from hemoglobin, the protein released when red blood cells die. High levels of bilirubin cause jaundice and can mean that TTP is causing too many red blood cells to die.

Blood Creatinine Test

Blood creatinine is a blood substance that is normally removed by the kidneys. For TTP patients, their blood creatinine levels may be high.

Coombs Test

This test can tell whether TTP is causing anemia by determining if certain proteins are destroying red blood cells. If the test is negative, TTP is the cause.

Urine Test

Patients with TTP may have unusually high levels of protein or blood cells in their urine.

ADAMTS13 Assay

By drawing a small amount of blood from your arm, the OSUCCC – James experts can analyze the sample to determine if the ADAMTS13 enzyme (a protein in the blood) is active. Most cases of TTP are caused by a problem with this enzyme.

(Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)


If you’ve been diagnosed with thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, would like a second opinion or would like to speak with a blood disorder specialist, please call The James Line at 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

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