Children's Hospital Colorado

Bone Marrow Failure

What is bone marrow failure?

Bone marrow failure is the field of medicine that cares for patients with a failure or predisposed failure to produce red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

What is aplastic anemia?

Aplastic anemia is a disease in which a child's bone marrow fails to produce red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. This is because of an empty, dysfunctional bone marrow.

What causes the bone marrow to fail?

Aplastic anemia can be caused by an inherited condition. It can also be acquired because of infection, inflammation or exposure to drugs and chemicals.

Types of inherited bone marrow failure syndromes (IBMFS) include:

  • Fanconi's anemia
  • Diamond-Blackfan anemia
  • Dyskeratosis congenita
  • Shwachman-Diamond syndrome
  • Congenital amegakaryocytic thrombocytopenia
  • Thrombocytopenia with absent radii
  • Thrombocytopenia disorders
  • Severe congenital neutropenia
  • Cyclic neutropenia
  • Pearson syndrome

However, more than half of all cases of aplastic anemia are not inherited, and no known cause such as infection or inflammation can be identified.

How does aplastic anemia affect my child?

Each part of the blood plays an important role in your child's day-to-day health:

  • While blood cells make up your child's immune system and prevent them from getting sick.
  • Red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body and keep all organs functioning properly.
  • Platelets prevent bleeding and bruising.

A child with aplastic anemia can no longer carry out these activities and is more susceptible to infection, organ dysfunction and bleeding.

Who gets aplastic anemia?

Acquired aplastic anemia and inherited bone marrow failure syndromes commonly occur in children ages 1 to 5 and in adolescents 12 to 20 years old. It is equally common in males and females. People of Asian heritage are more likely to develop aplastic anemia.

Get to know our pediatric experts.

Alisa Lee Sherick, MD

Alisa Lee Sherick, MD

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Kristen Padgett, CPNP

Kristen Padgett, CPNP

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Colleen Carrera, PA-C

Colleen Carrera, PA-C

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David Harford, MD

David Harford, MD

Hematology/Oncology - Pediatric , Pediatrics