Aplastic Anemia is a rare kind of blood defect in which bone marrow stops generating new blood cells. Aplastic anemia can develop at any age and it may occur suddenly and can get worse over a long period of time. There are two different types: Acquired aplastic anemia & Inherited aplastic anemia. In many people cause of Aplastic anemia is unknown and in other it may be due to: Toxic substances like pesticides, Radiation therapy and chemotherapy for cancer, Certain medicines, Infections such as hepatitis or HIV, Autoimmune disorders, Certain inherited conditions or Pregnancy.
Treatment for aplastic anemia may include medications, blood transfusions or a stem cell transplant/ bone marrow transplant. Blood transfusion does not cure anemia but just to control bleeding and relive from anemia symptoms, it may include transfusion of red blood cells or platelets. While there’s generally no limit to the number of blood cell transfusions you can have, complications can sometimes arise with multiple transfusions. Over time, your body may develop antibodies to transfused blood cells, making them less effective at relieving symptoms that’s why immunosuppressant is required along with blood transfusion to control complications like excess iron in the body due to episodes of blood transfusion.
PREPARING FOR THE BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT
If you have signs and symptoms of anemia and your doctor suspects it as aplastic anemia, you will be instructed to undergo various investigations and tests to confirm the diagnosis and prepare for the treatment plan. Investigations such as Blood tests which confirms that all the three blood cells i.e., RBC, WBC and platelets are low and Bone marrow biopsy which shows fewer number of blood cells leading to aplastic anemia. After the diagnosis is confirm your doctor will prepare you for bone marrow transplant, mostly allogenic transplant. Donor must be a relative like sibling and match the requirements of the receiver.
BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT PROCEDURE
Firstly, healthy stem cells are extracted and filtered from donor’s blood and kept in cold storage. You have to undergo high radiation or chemotherapy in order to destroy the diseased bone marrow and make place for new cells to be injected. After a gap of few weeks post radiation therapy when effect of radiation has improved, you will be admitted for the transplant procedure. On the day of transplant, the healthy stem cells extracted from the donor is injected intravenously into your bloodstream, where they migrate to the bone marrow cavities and begin generating new blood cells.
POST BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT
Bone marrow transplant require a long hospital stay of around a month. After the transplant you would be administered medicines to prevent rejection of donor blood cells. The state of your engraftment (formation of new blood cells) will be regularly monitored. It’s generally complete between 10 and 28 days after the initial transplant. The first sign of engraftment is a rising white blood cell count. This shows that the transplant is starting to make new blood cells.
The initial recovery period typically lasts about three months after an allogeneic bone marrow transplant. You will be provided with a long term care and follow up program, you may need to visit your doctor for regular blood tests to monitor the blood cell count. The recovery of a bone marrow transplant is primarily determined on how closely the donor and recipient genetically match. A stem cell transplant carries risks and there’s a chance that your body may reject the transplant, leading to life-threatening complications. Mostly, recovery time for a bone marrow transplant is about three months. However, it may take up to a year for you to recover fully.
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Q: Is Aplastic Anemia a type of cancer?
A: No, it is a blood disorder which leads to weak immune system and is non-malignant in nature.
Q: Aplastic Anemia is a life threatening condition?
A: Aplastic anemia if diagnosed at initial phase can be treated but if untreated it may become underlying cause of several fatal conditions.
Q: How a pregnant women diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia treated?
A: Pregnant women cannot undergo transfusion or radiations so only blood transfusion along with immunosuppressant can help them. And mostly aplastic anemia gets cured by the end of pregnancy.
Q: What does Aplastic refers to?
A: In the field of haematology, the term Aplastic refers to “incomplete, retarded, or defective development, or cessation of the usual regenerative process.”
Q: Is Aplastic anemia inherited?
A: Yes, Aplastic anemia can pass down from parents to child and can be diagnosed in childhood, although it’s a rare condition.
Q: What are early signs and symptoms of Aplastic Anemia?
A: Symptoms of Aplastic anemia include: Easy fatigue and loss of energy, unusually rapid heartbeat, Shortness of breath and headache, particularly with exercise, Difficulty concentrating, Dizziness, Pale skin, Leg cramps, and Insomnia.
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