Aplastic anaemia is a rare disorder which affects the bone marrow resulting a failure to produce sufficient blood cells. The bone marrow is normally a factory which produces large numbers of red cells, white cells and platelets each day. In aplastic anaemia the patient develops severe anaemia (lack of red cells), as well as low white cells, which results in an increased risk of serious infections and low platelets which results in an increased risk of bleeding and bruising.
Aplastic anaemia occurs predominantly in younger people and is usually of an unknown cause. Aplastic anaemia in its severest forms is a life threatening condition and patients require intensive inpatient treatment in hospital to try to correct the marrow deficiency. If the patient has a brother or sister that is a match then a bone marrow transplant is usually regarded as the best form of treatment. For those patients who do not have a matched brother or sister donor then the best form of treatment normally is to use drugs to try to stimulate the bone marrow to recover. For patients who fail with this approach then a transplant from a volunteer unrelated donor is a possible form of treatment or even a transplant using umbilical cord blood cells may be considered.
Fortunately with new methods of treatment and supportive care the outlook for patients has improved but severe aplastic anaemia remains a serious disease and not all patients recover.