Bone marrow failure is the decreased ability of your bone marrow to produce blood cells. Bone marrow is the tissue that fills the inside of your bones. Its most important job is to produce new blood cells and release them into the bloodstream.
There are three main types of blood cells:
Some bone marrow failure conditions are genetic, which means they are inherited from a family member. Bone marrow failure caused by genetics may be associated with slow growth, developmental problems, certain cancers, frequent or unusual infections or brain, kidney, liver or bone abnormalities. Some types of bone marrow failure can be life-threatening. Treatment requires a hematologist-oncologist (blood and cancer doctor) who specializes in treating these conditions and collaborates with other pediatric specialists to develop a personalized management plan for your child.
There are many types of bone marrow failure, including bone marrow failure associated with primary immunodeficiency diseases and cancer predisposition (when genetics increases a person's risk for certain cancers). Some bone marrow failure types include:
The symptoms of bone marrow failure depend on the type of blood cell that is affected as well as genetic factors. Many children with bone marrow failure do not feel sick, and their condition is only discovered when a doctor orders blood counts for a different reason. In other children, decreased blood cells can cause a wide range of problems.
Bone marrow failure symptoms can include:
Understanding the cause of bone marrow failure in each patient is extremely important, because the best therapy will depend on what caused the bone marrow to fail. Children with inherited bone marrow failure syndromes need a comprehensive screening, as the genetic problems are often associated with undiagnosed abnormalities in other organs. Doctors at Riley at IU Health may use the following tests to diagnose bone marrow failure:
Whole-exome sequencing is another test used if candidate gene tests do not help establish a diagnosis.
Treatment may include:
Visit the links below to learn more about conditions associated with bone marrow failure and discover support groups and resources.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
This guide from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute provides information on the various types of anemia, including aplastic anemia.
This website describes Barth syndrome treatment, prognosis and research.
Learn more about Shwachman-Diamond syndrome, severe congenital neutropenia and Li-Fraumeni syndrome on this U.S. National Library of Medicine website.
This website provides information about leukocyte adhesion deficiency, including information about treatment and research.
This website describes severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), including information about research and other information resources for this condition.
Research on bone marrow failure is conducted at the Herman B. Wells Center for Pediatric Research. The current research focuses primarily on the mechanisms of bone marrow failure and cancer in patients with Fanconi anemia and other inherited bone marrow failure syndromes.
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