Heart and Blood Conditions

Aplastic Anemia

What Is Aplastic Anemia?

Aplastic anemia is serious. Children with this disease need treatment quickly to survive.

In this disease, the bone marrow shuts down and stops making new blood cells. Bone marrow is found in the soft, spongy center of the long bones of the arms and legs, as well as in the central skeleton, including the spine, skull and hips.

The marrow makes immature cells called stem cells. The stem cells, in turn, make the three major types of blood cells:

  1. White blood cells: fight infection
  2. Red blood cells: carry oxygen
  3. Platelets: make the blood clot and stop bleeding

Without enough of these blood cells, children are at risk for serious health problems.

Aplastic Anemia in Children

Anyone can get this disease. It affects males and females of all ages and races.

Most often aplastic anemia occurs because the person's own immune system suppresses their stem cells. Doctors do not know why this happens. In the vast majority of cases, the cause is unknown.

Here are some things that can suppress the bone marrow or stem cells and increase risk of aplastic anemia:

  • Being infected with a virus called parvovirus. In children the most common illness from parvovirus is called fifth disease. It causes a rash for about one week.
  • Being exposed to radiation.
  • Being exposed to certain toxins, such as benzene.
  • Getting chemotherapy for cancer.

Aplastic Anemia at Seattle Children's

We offer a full range of services to diagnose and treat this disease.

Our doctors have worked with many children with aplastic anemia and their families. We can help you understand the disease, provide various treatment options and help you get support throughout the process.

Read more about our experience and treatment of blood diseases through our Hematology Program.