Aplastic anemia

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Aplastic anemia
ICD-10 D60.-D61.
ICD-9 284
OMIM 609135
DiseasesDB 866
MeSH D000741

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Editor-In-Chief: Aric Hall, M.D., Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA[1]

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Aplastic anemia is a condition where bone marrow does not produce sufficient new cells to replenish blood cells.

The term 'aplastic' means the marrow suffers from an aplasia that renders it unable to function properly. Anemia is the condition of having fewer red 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 of all three blood cell types: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.


Aplastic anemia is a rare condition with incidence of two cases per million individuals per year in Western countries with rates two to three times as high in Asia.[1] This low incidence leads to difficulties in forming clear associations with causal factors.

One known cause is an autoimmune disorder, where the white blood cells attack the bone marrow.

In many cases, the etiology is impossible to determine, but aplastic anemia is sometimes associated with exposure to substances such as benzene, radiation, or to the use of certain drugs, including chloramphenicol, carbamazepine, phenytoin, quinine, and phenylbutazone. Many drugs are associated with aplasia mainly in the base of case reports but at a very low probability, As an example, chloramphenicol treatment is followed by aplasia in less than 1 in 40,000 treatment courses,and carbamazepine aplasia is even more rare.

Aplastic anaemia is present in up to 2% of patients with acute viral hepatitis.

Signs and symptoms


The diagnosis can only be made on bone marrow examination. This will reveal a hypocellular bone marrow with fatty replacement of the normal hematopoetic precursors. The primary diagnostic dilemma is differentiating aplastic anemia from a hypocellular myelodysplastic syndrome. Before this procedure is undertaken, a patient will generally have had other blood tests to find diagnostic clues, including a full blood count, renal function and electrolytes, liver enzymes, thyroid function tests, vitamin B12 and folic acid levels.


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 potential cure but a risky procedure. The transplanted bone marrow replaces the failing bone marrow cells with new ones from a matching donor. The pluripotent stem cells in the bone marrow reconstitute all three blood cell lines, giving the patient a new immune system, red blood cells, and platelets. However, besides the risk of graft failure, there is also a risk that the newly created white blood cells may attack the rest of the body ("graft-versus-host disease").

Medical therapy of aplastic anemia often includes a short course of anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG or anti-lymphocyte globulin) and several months of treatment with cyclosporin to modulate the immune system. Mild chemotherapy with agents such as cyclophosphamide and vincristine may also be effective. Antibodies therapy, such as ATG, targets T-cells, which are believed to attack the bone marrow. Steroids are generally ineffective.

In the past, before the above treatments became available, patients with low leukocyte counts were often confined to a sterile room or bubble (to reduce risk of infections), as in the famed case of Ted DeVita.


Untreated aplastic anemia is an illness that leads to rapid death, typically within six months. If the disease is diagnosed correctly and initial treatment is begun promptly, then the survival rate for the next five to ten years is substantially improved, and many patients live well beyond that length of time.

Occasionally, milder cases of the disease resolve on their own. Relapses of previously controlled disease are, however, much more common.

Well-matched bone marrow transplants from siblings have been successful in young, otherwise healthy people, with a long-term survival rate of 80%-90%. Most successful BMT recipients eventually reach a point where they consider themselves cured for all practical purposes, although they need to be compliant with follow-up care permanently.

Older people (who are generally too frail to undergo bone marrow transplants) and people who are unable to find a good bone marrow match have five year survival rate of up to 75%.


Regular full blood counts are required to determine whether the patient is still in a state of remission.

10-33% of all patients develop the rare disease paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH, anemia with thrombopenia and/or thrombosis), which has been explained as an escape mechanism by the bone marrow against destruction by the immune system. Flow cytometry testing is probably warranted in all PNH patients with recurrent aplasia.

See also

External links


  1. Young NS, Scheinberg P, Calado RT (2008). "Aplastic anemia". Curr. Opin. Hematol. 15 (3): 162–8. PMID 18391779. doi:10.1097/MOH.0b013e3282fa7470.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)

Cost Effectiveness of Aplastic anemia

| group5 = Clinical Trials Involving Aplastic anemia | list5 = Ongoing Trials on Aplastic anemia at Clinical Trials.govTrial results on Aplastic anemiaClinical Trials on Aplastic anemia at Google

| group6 = Guidelines / Policies / Government Resources (FDA/CDC) Regarding Aplastic anemia | list6 = US National Guidelines Clearinghouse on Aplastic anemiaNICE Guidance on Aplastic anemiaNHS PRODIGY GuidanceFDA on Aplastic anemiaCDC on Aplastic anemia

| group7 = Textbook Information on Aplastic anemia | list7 = Books and Textbook Information on Aplastic anemia

| group8 = Pharmacology Resources on Aplastic anemia | list8 = AND (Dose)}} Dosing of Aplastic anemiaAND (drug interactions)}} Drug interactions with Aplastic anemiaAND (side effects)}} Side effects of Aplastic anemiaAND (Allergy)}} Allergic reactions to Aplastic anemiaAND (overdose)}} Overdose information on Aplastic anemiaAND (carcinogenicity)}} Carcinogenicity information on Aplastic anemiaAND (pregnancy)}} Aplastic anemia in pregnancyAND (pharmacokinetics)}} Pharmacokinetics of Aplastic anemia

| group9 = Genetics, Pharmacogenomics, and Proteinomics of Aplastic anemia | list9 = AND (pharmacogenomics)}} Genetics of Aplastic anemiaAND (pharmacogenomics)}} Pharmacogenomics of Aplastic anemiaAND (proteomics)}} Proteomics of Aplastic anemia

| group10 = Newstories on Aplastic anemia | list10 = Aplastic anemia in the newsBe alerted to news on Aplastic anemiaNews trends on Aplastic anemia</small>

| group11 = Commentary on Aplastic anemia | list11 = Blogs on Aplastic anemia

| group12 = Patient Resources on Aplastic anemia | list12 = Patient resources on Aplastic anemiaDiscussion groups on Aplastic anemiaPatient Handouts on Aplastic anemiaDirections to Hospitals Treating Aplastic anemiaRisk calculators and risk factors for Aplastic anemia

| group13 = Healthcare Provider Resources on Aplastic anemia | list13 = Symptoms of Aplastic anemiaCauses & Risk Factors for Aplastic anemiaDiagnostic studies for Aplastic anemiaTreatment of Aplastic anemia

| group14 = Continuing Medical Education (CME) Programs on Aplastic anemia | list14 = CME Programs on Aplastic anemia

| group15 = International Resources on Aplastic anemia | list15 = Aplastic anemia en EspanolAplastic anemia en Francais

| group16 = Business Resources on Aplastic anemia | list16 = Aplastic anemia in the MarketplacePatents on Aplastic anemia

| group17 = Informatics Resources on Aplastic anemia | list17 = List of terms related to Aplastic anemia

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