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Aplastic anemia overview

Updated: July 27, 2009

Aplastic anemia is a condition where bone marrow does not produce enough, or any, new cells to replenish the blood. One known cause is an autoimmune disorder, where the white blood cells attack the bone marrow.

The term 'aplastic' refers to the inability of the marrow to function properly. Anemia is the condition of having fewer blood cells than normal, or fewer than needed to function properly. Typically, anemia refers to low red blood cell counts, but aplastic anemia patients have lower counts on all three blood cell types: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Clinical suspicion

Anemia with thrombocytopenia or pancytopenia with reticulocytopenia. Bone marrow aspirate often shows dry tap.

Diagnosis

Bone marrow biopsy shows replacement by fat. Cytogenetics are normal in acquired aplastic anemia and abnormal in the 1ry type.

Treatment

Treating aplastic anemia involves suppression of the immune system, an effect achieved by daily medicine intake, or, in more severe cases, a bone marrow transplant, a curing but risky procedure. An interesting property of bone marrow transplants is the production of new white blood cells, an effect that removes the possibility of rejection. However, newly created white blood cells might reject the whole body instead.


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