Supportive Care | Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation

Supportive Care

Supportive care

Supportive care is a term used for treatments that help you manage the symptoms of aplastic anemia. This approach does not treat the cause of your aplastic anemia and is not a cure. This approach includes the use of:

Blood transfusions involve putting blood from a donor into your body. These transfusions temporarily increase blood counts until other treatment can work. Aplastic anemia patients may get red blood cell transfusions or platelet transfusions.

Iron chelation therapy reduces high levels of iron in your blood. High levels of iron can be caused by receiving many red blood cell transfusions. This condition is called iron overload and may cause damage to vital organs in your body if not treated. Iron overload can start to become a problem after as few as 20 blood transfusions. If your blood iron level, or ferritin (FER-i-tin), is between 1,000 and 2,000, this is considered high, and treatment may be necessary. If you have iron overload, your doctor may ask you to take an iron chelator (KEE-lay-tor) to remove the extra iron out of your body. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two iron chelators to treat iron overload in the U.S. There are two iron chelators currently approved for use in the United States. These include Deferisirox (Exjade®) and Deferoxamine (Deseferal ®).

  • Deferisirox is a tablet you dissolve in water.
  • Deferoxamine is given by slow infusion into a vein through a portable infusion pump.
  • An oral iron chelator called diferiprone (Ferriprox®) is approved for use in Europe and elsewhere, but not the U.S. It is usually taken 3 times a day (morning, afternoon, and night). The number of tablets taken per day depends on your weight and how much iron you have in your body.

Learn more about iron overload and its treatment.

Growth factors cause your bone marrow to produce more blood cells. They may be helpful for some patients, but they do not replace immunosuppressive therapy.

Red cell growth factor is called erythropoietin or EPO for short. It is a hormone naturally produced in the liver. Man made forms of erythropoietin come in the brand names Epogen® and Procrit®. Darbapoietin, is similar EPO, and comes in the brand name Aranesp®.

White blood cell growth factors are sometimes used. These include G-CSF (granulocyte colony-stimulating factor) sold under the brand names Filgrastim® and Neupogen®. Another white cell growth factor is called GM-CSF (granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor) sold under the brand names Leuking® and Sargramostim®.

Antibiotics may be prescribed to help prevent and treat infection.

Issues in Making a Treatment Plan

Your doctor will look at several issues in finding the best treatment plan for you. These include:

  • Your symptoms
  • Your age
  • How severe your case is
  • Other conditions or diseases you have
  • Whether someone (often a family member) is willing and able to donate matching stem cells to you