For many patients with severe aplastic anemia (SAA), supportive care with or without immunosuppressive therapy are the most common treatments used first.
Supportive care can include blood (platelet or red blood cell) transfusions and growth factors. Platelet transfusions reduce the risk of life-threatening bleeding caused by very low numbers of platelets. Red blood cell transfusions reduce problems with being very tired and short of breath caused by low numbers of red blood cells (anemia).
Doctors try to give patients as few transfusions as possible. This is because over time getting many blood transfusions can cause other problems. Too many red blood cell transfusions can lead to a buildup of iron in the body, which could require treatment to remove iron to prevent organ damage.
Immunosuppressive therapy uses medicines to hold back the immune system. This can sometimes help the marrow make more blood cells. For many patients with SAA, immunosuppressive therapy helps improve blood counts to safe levels.
Learn more about transplant and other treatment options.