Aplastic Anemia: Treatment

What are the treatments for aplastic anemia?

Issues in Making a Treatment Plan

Your doctor will look at several issues in finding the best treatment plan for you. These include:

  • Your symptoms
  • Your age
  • How severe your case is
  • Other conditions or diseases you have
  • Whether someone (often a family member) is willing and able to donate matching stem cells to you

The main goal of aplastic anemia treatment is to increase the number of healthy cells in your blood. When your blood counts go up:

  • You are less likely to need blood from a donor (transfusion)
  • Your quality of life gets better
  • Your symptoms are not as bad

Depending on how severe your aplastic anemia is, your doctor will use supportive care to help you manage symptoms and may also treat you with either immunosuppressive therapy or a stem cell transplantation.  Removing a known cause of aplastic anemia, such as exposure to a toxin, also may cure the condition.

There are three categories of treatment for aplastic anemia

Supportive Care

Supportive care is a term used for treatments that help you manage the symptoms of aplastic anemia and is not a cure.  This approach includes the use of:

Immunosuppressive Drug Therapy

Immunosuppressive drug therapy lowers your body's immune response. This prevents your immune system from attacking your bone marrow, lets stem cells grow back, and raises blood counts. In acquired aplastic anemia, immunosuppressive therapy with anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) plus cyclosporine is the therapy of choice for older patients. It is also used for patients who do not have a matched stem cell donor. About 8 out of 10 patients have a positive response to this treatment.

Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplantation

Bone marrow transplantation, also called stem cell transplantation, involves the killing of your bone marrow stem cells with chemotherapy and radiation and then putting blood-forming stem cells from a healthy donor into your bloodstream. The stem cells travel to your bone marrow and begin making healthy blood cells. This raises blood counts.