Often overlooked of its importance, bone marrow is the most exciting of all tissues. Hidden in the hollow of long bones this soft and spongy tissue is the thriving focal point of new life. Bone marrow is the hub for production of blood cells. The marrow is made up of two types, red marrow and yellow marrow. Red marrow is responsible for production of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. The yellow marrow is mainly made up of fat cells.
Bone marrow failure is a condition in which the blood cells are produced in insufficient quantity or there is complete stoppage of its production.This results in low red blood cells, white blood cells and low platelets in the circulating peripheral blood. The condition that translates into is called anemia, neutropenia and thrombocytopenia.
What Causes Bone Marrow Failure?
Bone marrow failure can affect the production of red blood cells as well as white blood cells and platelets. Following are the causes;
- Bone marrow failure can be due to congenital cause or it can also be acquired.
- The most common genetic condition is Fanconi anemia. It is characterized by dark hyper pigmentation, short stature, small head size, low birth weight, hip dislocation etc. There is an increased risk of leukemia.
- Bone marrow can also be an acquired condition. For example, it can be due to viruses (Hepatitis B virus, Epstein-Barr virus); it can be due to an autoimmune disease, ionizing radiation, radiotherapy.
- Use of certain chemicals and drugs can cause bone marrow depression. These chemicals include benzene and its derivatives, industrial solvents, Lindane, hair dye etc. Drugs that may be responsible for bone marrow depression include chloramphenicol, sulfonamide, anti-convulsants etc.
- Defect in maturation of the cells can also cause bone marrow depression. It is mostly due to vitamin B12 deficiency or folic acid deficiency.
- Infiltration of marrow due to lymphoma, multiple myeloma, can also cause bone marrow failure.
Bone Marrow Failure Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of bone marrow failure are:
- Anemia: Since the red blood cells are not produced as required, the patient has anemia as one of its symptom. Patient feels tired, weak, and breathless. His heart and pulse rate increases.
- Low white blood cell count can increase the risk and frequency of bacterial infection.
- Low platelet count can increase the risk of bleeding and bruising. Bleeding can occur from any orifice it can be from the nose, gums, gastrointestinal tract etc.
Diagnosis Of Bone Marrow Failure
With the help of symptoms as well as blood tests it is possible to diagnose the bone marrow failure.
- Primarily the peripheral blood is examined for abnormal cells. It is one of the leading indications of any blood dyscrasias.
- Bone marrow studies done by aspiration biopsy are useful in revealing any cellular abnormality. In the study the marrow is replaced by fat cells. Bone marrow study may also help to know if there is any particular deficiency of vitamins which is responsible for development of bone marrow failure.
- The activity inside the bone marrow can be measured by radio-graphic methods too.
- PET and MRI are imaging techniques that also help to reveal bone marrow failure.