What tests are used to diagnose aplastic anemia?
Blood tests and a bone marrow aspirate and biopsy are the tests used to diagnose aplastic anemia. From your child's blood sample, a complete blood count (CBC) will be done to count the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets that are circulating in your child's blood stream. Because all or most cell numbers are low in aplastic anemia, patients usually have lower than expected CBCs.
We will also count reticulocytes, or newly formed red cells. These are usually low in children with bone marrow failure.
Bone marrow biopsy
The definitive test for aplastic anemia is a bone marrow aspirate and biopsy. The test is performed in an operating room while your child is asleep to prevent him or her from feeling pain.
During the biopsy, a special needle is used to take about a teaspoon of marrow for your child's back hip bones. The sample of marrow and bone is examined under a microscope by a hematologist (blood doctor) and pathologist (doctor who examines cells) to diagnose aplastic anemia. The procedure to obtain a bone marrow sample can be completed as an outpatient with children going home the same day and in minimal pain.
What to expect from blood and bone marrow tests
The results of CBC and reticulocyte counts are available within an hour. We'll provide supportive care immediately to make your child feel better.
Bone marrow tests can take days to a week to be fully completed.
How do providers at Children's Hospital Colorado make a diagnosis?
When a patient comes to Children's Colorado with bleeding, bruising or extreme paleness, your doctor will request a blood test for a complete blood count (CBC). If your child's testing shows a combination of low red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, bone marrow failure is often suspected. Doctors will then recommend that your child have a bone marrow aspirate and biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.