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Aplastic anaemia diagnosis

How is aplastic anaemia diagnosed?

Aplastic anaemia is diagnosed by examining samples of your blood and bone marrow.

Full blood count

The first step in the diagnosis is a simple blood test called a full blood count (FBC) or complete blood count (CBC), wherea sample of blood from a vein in your arm is sent to the laboratory for investigation. An aplastic anaemia diagnosis needs to be confirmed by examining your cells in your bone marrow.

Bone marrow examination

If the results of your blood tests suggest that you might have aplastic anaemia, a bone marrow biopsy may be required to help confirm the diagnosis. A bone marrow biopsy involves taking a sample of your bone marrow, usually from the back of the hip bone and sending it to the laboratory for examination under the microscope. The bone marrow biopsy may be done in the haematologist’s rooms, clinic or day procedure centre and is usually performed under local anaesthesia with sedation given either by tablet or through a small drip in your arm.

The sample of bone marrow is examined in the laboratory to determine the number and type of cells present and the amount of haemopoiesis (blood-forming) activity taking place there. Patients with aplastic anaemia will have reduced numbers of white cells, red cells and platelets in their blood.

Other tests

These tests provide more information about the exact type of disease you have, the likely course of your disease and the best way to treat it. Further tests may be conducted to provide information on your general health and how your vital organs are functioning. These include a combination of further blood tests and imaging tests (x-rays, scans and ECG). These results will provide a baseline of your disease and general health which will be compared with later results to assess how well you are progressing and responding to treatment.

All of these tests allow the treating specialist to diagnose the severity of the aplastic anaemia. Aplastic anaemia can be classified as severe or mild. Severe anaemia requires immediate treatment and you or your child’s treating doctor will discuss the treatment options with you.