Health A-Z

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Your doctor will review your medical history and ask you to describe your symptoms. Other questions may include:

  • Do you live or work in an area where you are exposed to toxic chemicals or radiation?

  • What medications do you take?

  • Have you ever had hepatitis, mononucleosis or another viral infection?

  • Is there a family history of aplastic anemia or other blood disorders?

On occasion, the presence of aplastic anemia can predate the development of some forms of leukemia.

Your doctor will examine you to look for the signs of aplastic anemia. This will be followed by blood tests to measure levels of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Aplastic anemia is suspected when the tests show that levels of all three blood cell types are extremely low, but the cells themselves look normal. A test called a bone marrow biopsy is needed to confirm the diagnosis.

During a bone marrow biopsy, a small sample of bone marrow is taken by inserting a needle into the large pelvic bone just below the waist on either side of the spine. This bone marrow sample is examined in a laboratory. A hematologist (doctor who specializes in blood disorders) usually will confirm the diagnosis based on the results of bone marrow findings and basic blood tests.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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