Aplastic Anemia

Specific treatments for aplastic anemia will be determined by your child's doctor based on the following:

  • Your child's age, overall health and medical history
  • Extent of your child's anemia
  • Cause of the anemia
  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the anemia
  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment for aplastic anemia usually depends on the underlying cause. For certain causes, recovery can be expected after treatment. However, relapses can occur. If all treatments fail, aplastic anemia can be fatal.

Supportive Therapy

To treat the low blood counts, initial treatment is supportive, meaning it is necessary to treat the symptoms but it doesn't cure the disease. Supportive therapy may include:

  • Blood transfusion for both red blood cells and platelets
  • Preventive antibiotic therapy
  • Meticulous hand washing
  • Special care for food preparation, such as only eating cooked foods
  • Avoiding construction sites that may be a source of certain fungi

The main treatments for aplastic anemia are:

Bone Marrow Transplant

Bone marrow transplants are performed to replace diseased marrow with healthy marrow from a well-matched donor. This treatment, with a good marrow match, can be highly successful, preventing recurrence in about 80 percent of young patients and about 40 to 70 percent of older patients. There is a chance, however, that your child may reject the transplant, leading to life-threatening complications. Not everyone will have a suitable donor.

Immunosuppressive Therapy

Immunosuppressive therapy uses drugs to stimulate blood cell production. Aplastic anemia may be due to an autoimmune disorder that causes your child's immune system to attack and damage cells in his or her bone marrow. To prevent this, doctors sometimes prescribe drugs that suppress immune cells that are damaging bone marrow cells.

In addition, a synthetic version of the male hormone androgen is being studied as a treatment for aplastic anemia. The hormone stimulates blood cell production.

Some treatments must be performed in the hospital or our outpatient Pediatric Treatment Center. But most of your child's medications will be taken at home. Your child will need to have frequent blood tests to monitor progress.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Cancer & Blood Disease

Hematology Clinic
1825 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 476-3831
Fax: (415) 514-5868
Appointment information

Blood and Marrow Transplant Program
1975 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 476-2188
Fax: (415) 502-4867
Appointment information

Treatment Center
1825 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2584
Fax: (415) 353-2600
Appointment information