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What you need to know about Failing Bone Marrow

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A failing bone marrow, can best be described as “the reduction or cessation of blood cell production affecting one or more cell lines.”

What is bone marrow?

• Bone marrow is a type of spongy tissue in the center of bones
• It is a soft gelatinous tissue that fills he medullary cavities, the centers of bones
• It is most concentrated in the spine, hip and thigh bones
• It contains immature cells, called stem cells
• On the average, bone marrow constitutes 4% of the total body mass of humans
• Bone marrow produces 200 billion new red blood cells every day, along with white blood cells and platelets

There are 2 types of bone marrow:

– Red marrow (myeloid tissue)
– Yellow tissue (fatty tissue)

What are the functions of the bone marrow?

failing bone marrow

• Blood cell production from differentiation of hematopoietic stem cells in red bone marrow; red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets
• The bone marrow also has a lymphatic role via the production of lymphocytes which functions in combating infections
• Bone marrow sustains the bones.

Abnormalities involving the bone marrow:

• Since the bone marrow is crucial in producing blood cells, problems and disease of the bone marrow will result in blood-related conditions or cancers
• Many of these conditions such as leukemia and aplastic anemia affect the number of blood cells produced in bone marrow

Clinical features of diseases of abnormal bone marrow may include,

• Fever
• Fatigue and weakness
• Increased susceptibility to infections
• Shortness of breath
• Dizziness
• Pallor
• Easy bleeding and bruising
• Low white blood cells
• Low platelets

Some diseases asscociated with failing bone marrow:

• Aplastic anaemia
• Malignancies- multiple myeloma
• Infections – tuberculosis
• Various forms of leukemia
• Myeloproliferative disorders

Investigations of bone marrow in health and disease:

failing bone marrow
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• Baseline tests: Full blood count and differential
• Peripheral blood film
• ESR and C-reactive protein
• Definitive tests: Bone marrow examination (aspiration or biopsy) Bone Marrow Transplantation (BMT):
• A procedure to treat patients with life-threatening blood, immune or genetic disorders like leukemias
• BMT replaces the unhealthy blood-forming cells with healthy ones, hence also known as Stem Cell Transplantation (SCT)
• It can be autologous (own cells transplant) or allogeneic (cells from another person transplant)
• There is however the risk of Graft versus Host Disease (GVHD)

How is failing bone marrow treated?

Treatment of failing bone marrow is often dependent on the underlying cause of the bone marrow failure, but can also include immunosuppressive therapy, careful monitoring of blood counts and supportive care, and finally, bone marrow transplant.

Note that  a bone marrow transplant is the only lasting cure for a failing bone marrow. Bone marrow transplants are also called stem cell transplants.

According to a research by Mayo clinic, “drugs such as cyclosporine (Gengraf, Neoral, Sandimmune) and anti-thymocyte globulin suppress the activity of immune cells that are damaging your bone marrow. This helps your bone marrow recover and generate new blood cells. Cyclosporine and anti-thymocyte globulin are often used together.”

Other treatment options include:

  • Man made growth factors
  • Iron chelation
  • Antibiotics


The roles of the bone marrow in maintaining the health and well being of humans cannot be overemphasized. Several diseases pose a threat to bone marrow and prevent it from turning stem cells into essential cells.

Many people with blood cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, sickle cell anaemia and other life-threatening diseases rely on bone marrow or cord blood transplants to survive.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a failing bone marrow and requires a transplant, consider using KompleteCare’s Overseas Medical Care. We connect patients to the best care possible. Leaving failing bone marrow untreated for a long time can be fatal, hence treatment is advised immediately.

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Avatar of Dr. Shola Toye

Dr. Shola Toye (MBBS, MWACP) is the Senior Registrar, Department of Family Medicine, National Hospital, Abuja

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