Aplastic anemia is a blood disorder that occurs when the bone marrow fails to make enough of all types of blood cells: red cells, white cells and platelets. This can reduce the blood’s ability to carry oxygen (low red cells), make a child more susceptible to infection (low white cells), and impair the blood’s ability to clot (low platelets).
About 80 to 85 percent of aplastic anemia cases in children are acquired and may include a history of infectious diseases, taking certain medications, exposure to toxins, or exposure to radiation therapy or chemotherapy. In about 15 to 20 percent of cases, children inherit a disorder that predisposes them to developing aplastic anemia, including Fanconi anemia, dyskeratosis congenita, Shwachman-Diamond syndrome, and amegakaryocytic thrombocytopenia.
Children and young adults with aplastic anemia are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Bone Marrow Failure Program. Continue reading to learn more about aplastic anemia or visit the Bone Marrow Failure Program homepage to learn about our expertise with this condition.
The symptoms of aplastic anemia may resemble those of other blood disorders or medical problems. The most common symptoms are:
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, aplastic anemia can be diagnosed through a full evaluation of the blood and bone marrow, including:
Additional blood tests and genetic testing may be ordered to rule out certain inherited types of anemia and other disorders such as myelodysplastic syndrome.
After all tests are completed, doctors will be able to outline the best treatment options.
The treatment of aplastic anemia has improved significantly due to innovative new therapies; however, it is a serious condition requiring extensive ongoing care. Treatment for aplastic anemia may include: