Pancytopenia is a disease that causes a decrease in blood cells in the body. Red and white blood cells and platelets are not created in bone marrow as they should. As a result, the immune system cannot function properly and oxygen levels drop. There are several treatments for this blood cell deficiency, including immune system–suppressing medications, blood transfusions, and bone marrow or stem cell transplants.
The cause is known to be a malfunction in the cells of bone marrow that create new blood cells. When this occurs, new red and white blood cells or platelets cannot be made. Red blood cells carry important nutrients and oxygen through the body. White blood cells are necessary for the immune system to protect the body, and platelets are responsible for clotting the blood when injuries occur.
A reduction in these important blood cells leaves the body vulnerable to many conditions and illnesses. For this reason, treatment for pancytopenia is necessary. Slightly fluctuating blood cell and platelet counts do not usually require treatment because, although there is a decrease in the number of cells, the body still has some ability to make new cells. Regular testing helps manage blood counts and ensures that, if the condition worsens, treatment efforts can be changed.
Moderate cases of pancytopenia require treatment, but not more complicated treatments. The most common treatment for a moderate case is a blood transfusion. Most patients have recovering blood counts following a transfusion. There are some patients, however, who show only a temporary improvement.
Severe cases of pancytopenia require more complex treatments. Bone marrow and stem cell transplants can restart cell production. These treatments are performed by using the bone marrow or stem cells from a donor who matches the patient. The donor material is given to the patient through an intravenous infusion. Younger patients respond well to these treatments, but older patients may require the aid of medications to jump-start new blood cell growth.
Diagnosing and treating pancytopenia quickly is important. Bleeding can be life threatening and continuous because of the reduction of platelets that allow the blood to clot. Infections, even the simplest ones, can be deadly because there are not enough white blood cells to fight off the infection before it starts to progress out of control. Excessive bleeding and infections can lead to organ damage and even death if they continue to occur without successful treatment.