We studied ten normal subjects and 20 patients with stable, untreated idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) and platelet counts in the range of 35,000 to 110,000/microL. The diagnosis was made by clinical criteria. Platelet-associated IgG was increased in all nine of the nine patients studied. Autologous platelets were labeled with chromium 51 and reinfused for measurement of mean cell life and platelet production rate. Mean cell life was calculated by two methods, weighted mean and multiple hit, with excellent agreement between the two. As expected, mean cell life was significantly reduced in ITP patients as compared to the normal subjects (2.9 days v. 8.0 days, P less than .001). However, mean platelet production rates in ITP patients and normal subjects, 3.5 and 3.8 X 10(9) platelets/k/d respectively, were not significantly different. Platelet production rate was above and below the normal range (2 to 5.6 X 10(9) platelets/k/d) in two and four patients, respectively. We conclude that the rate of platelet production is not increased in most patients with ITP who have platelet counts greater than 35,000/microL. We did find that platelet size was increased in eight of the 12 patients in whom it was measured, including two of the patients with low platelet production.