Aplastic Anemia (AA) is a rare blood disorder that occurs when the body’s bone marrow does not make enough
new cells to replenish blood cells. Although anemia usually refers to low red blood
cell counts, typically in AA there are also low white blood cell and low platelet
counts. In most cases, AA is considered to be idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown.
Less commonly, AA can be caused by exposure to certain drugs, viral infections (i.e.
hepatitis, Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, parvovirus B19, and HIV), autoimmune
disorders (i.e. lupus and rheumatoid arthritis) radiation therapy, or toxins (i.e.
pesticides, benzene or arsenic). Symptoms of AA may include bleeding of the gums,
bleeding of internal organs, bruising, frequent or severe infections, nosebleeds,
rapid heart rate, rash, shortness of breath during physical activity, and weakness.
DIAGNOSTIC TESTING, PHYSICAL FINDINGS, AND ICD-9-CM CODING
Diagnostic testing: Bone marrow aspirate and biopsy is required for diagnosis and to rule out other
causes of pancytopenia such as cancer or infection; blood counts documenting anemia,
thrombocytopenia, leukopenia and low reticulocytes counts.
Physical findings: Anemia with fatigue and pallor, bruising, petechiae (non-raised hemorrhage in the
skin or in a membrane), and bleeding gums.
Supportive treatments for AA include blood transfusions, platelet transfusions, and
medications such as antithymocyte globulin (ATG) or antilymphocyte globulin (ALG),
cyclosporine, or low dose chemotherapy. If the bone marrow does not recover and start
producing blood cell elements, then bone marrow transplant (BMT) is required. BMT
has been successful in the treatment of young patients, with a long-term survival
of approximately 80%. Older patients have a survival rate of 40 – 70% after a transplant.
If left untreated, severe aplastic anemia can become life threatening.