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5.3: Aplastic Anemia

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    Bone Marrow Failure:

    Bone marrow failure is characterized by reduced hematopoiesis in the bone marrow resulting in cytopenias in one or more cell lines. Decreased hematopoiesis can be attributed to:1

    1. Destruction of hematopoietic stem cells due to acquired causes
    2. Destruction of hematopoietic stems cells due to inherited causes
    3. Ineffective erythropoiesis
    4. Disruption of bone marrow microenvironment
    5. Reduced production of growth factors and hormones related to hematopoiesis
    6. Infiltration of the bone marrow

    Aplastic anemia is a bone marrow failure syndrome that is characterized by a decreased cell count in all cell lines (pancytopenia) and a hypocellular (aplastic) bone marrow. (McKenzie ch 16 pg 303, Rodak ch 22 pg 332) Unlike other anemias, hepatosplenomegaly and lymphadenopathy are absent. (McKenzie ch 16 pg 307)


    There is no known, single cause of aplastic anemia but it’s development can be associated with a variety of clinical states and agents which can be either acquired or inherited.1,2 It is thought that acquired causes of aplastic anemia can lead to an immunologic response against one’s own hematopoietic stem cells.1

    Table 1. List of acquired and inherited causes of aplastic anemia.1-3



    Drugs and Chemicals


    Infectious agents

    Clonal Disorders (e.g. MDS, PNH)


    Fanconi Anemia (autosomal recessive, rare X-linked recessive)

    Dyskeratosis congenita

    Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome

    Laboratory Features of Aplastic Anemia:1,3


    RBC: Decreased

    WBC: Decreased

    PLT: Decreased

    Hb: Decreased

    RETIC: Decreased

    MCV: Normal to increased



    (Thrombocytopenia, neutropenia, anemia)


    Normocytic or macrocytic


    Hypocellular or dry tap

    Fatty infiltration

    Iron Studies:

    Serum Iron: Increased

    Ferritin: Increased

    Transferrin: Normal

    Transferrin Saturation: Normal to increased

    Other Tests:

    Molecular testing

    Flow cytometry



    1. Lo C, Glader B, Sakamoto KM. Bone marrow failure. In: Rodak’s hematology clinical applications and principles. 5th ed. St. Louis, Missouri: Saunders; 2015. p. 331-47.

    2. Laudicina R. Hypoproliferative anemias. In: Clinical laboratory hematology. 3rd ed. New Jersey: Pearson; 2015. p. 302-16.

    3. Perkins SL. Aplastic anemia including pure red cell aplasia, congenital dyserythropoietic anemia, and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria. In: Clinical hematology and fundamentals of hemostasis. 5th ed. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company; 2009. p. 156-75.

    This page titled 5.3: Aplastic Anemia is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Valentin Villatoro and Michelle To (Open Education Alberta) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.