Aplastic Anemia Life Expectancy: Survival Rate And Prognosis

Aplastic anemia is a rare condition that occurs when your body can't make enough new blood cells. People with aplastic anemia are more susceptible to bleeding, infections, and bruising. Without treatment, this condition can lead to severe complications.

Aplastic anemia can have a major impact on a variety of bodily functions. It can occur for many different reasons and develop at any age. With the right treatment, it's often possible to keep aplastic anemia under control.

Let's take a closer look at aplastic anemia life expectancy.

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What is aplastic anemia?

Aplastic anemia is a blood disorder that occurs when your bone marrow doesn't produce enough blood cells. It can affect any of the three types of blood cells, causing:

  • Low red blood cells (anemia), which prevents your body from receiving sufficient oxygen

  • Low white blood cells (neutropenia), which doesn't allow your body to fight infections properly

  • Low platelets (thrombocytopenia), which prevents your blood from clotting properly, so it becomes hard to stop any bleeding

Sometimes, your bone marrow stops making just one of these types of cells. However, it’s more common for it to stop making all three of the types. 

The condition can be either mild or severe. It can develop over time or become obvious quickly. Only about two out of every million people in the United States develop aplastic anemia yearly.¹

There are two main types of this condition:

  • Inherited aplastic anemia, which occurs due to a gene mutation and usually develops in children and young adults

  • Acquired aplastic anemia, which occurs due to an immune system problem or other factors, and usually develops in older adults

In most cases, aplastic anemia is manageable with medication and other types of treatment. Severe aplastic anemia can cause a person to die from a serious infection or uncontrollable bleeding.

Symptoms of aplastic anemia

The symptoms of aplastic anemia may include:

  • Easy bleeding

  • Easy bruising

  • Heavy menstruation

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fatigue

  • Frequent infections

People with mild aplastic anemia may not experience any symptoms, or they can easily confuse them with signs of other conditions. Doctors sometimes discover aplastic anemia during a routine blood test.

However, severe aplastic anemia can cause serious symptoms, some of which can be a medical emergency. Timely diagnosis and treatment are key to improving your quality of life and increasing the aplastic anemia survival rate.

Causes of aplastic anemia

Aplastic anemia occurs when stem cells inside your bone marrow don't function properly. In 75% of cases, doctors can't determine the cause of aplastic anemia. When this happens, the condition is called idiopathic aplastic anemia.²

Some of the common causes of this condition include the following:

Autoimmune condition

Your body begins attacking stem cells in the bone marrow and damaging them. These stem cells normally produce all three types of blood cells. When they’re damaged, the bone marrow will produce fewer healthy blood cells.


Certain inherited gene changes can cause a person to develop aplastic anemia.

Toxic substances

While more studies need to be done to confirm this, experts believe that exposure to certain pesticides and chemicals can cause aplastic anemia by damaging cells in the bone marrow.

Cancer treatments

Patients receiving radiation therapy or chemotherapy are at a higher risk of developing aplastic anemia. The bone marrow usually recovers within a few months after the treatment is stopped. However, sometimes the bone marrow may not recover.³

In fact, Marie Curie, who won the Nobel Prize for discovering radioactivity, died of aplastic anemia after years of radiation exposure.⁴

Viral infections

Certain viruses, including hepatitis, Epstein-Barr, and HIV, can cause aplastic anemia. In the US, 2-5% of patients with viral hepatitis develop aplastic anemia.⁵

Even if your doctor can't identify the cause of aplastic anemia, they can still provide treatment that may help to prevent serious complications. The sooner you begin treatment, the more chances you have of managing the condition and avoiding serious consequences.

Without treatment, most people with aplastic anemia will likely die within a year.⁶

How do doctors diagnose aplastic anemia?

If you are experiencing symptoms of aplastic anemia, you need to contact your doctor as soon as possible. To diagnose this condition, your healthcare provider will:

  • Ask about your family history (such as whether any of your relatives have had problems with their bone marrow)

  • Study your medical history (any previous medical issues that you’ve had)

  • Conduct a physical exam

  • Order blood tests

Various tests may be ordered so the doctor can look for multiple possible causes of your symptoms. These include tests that measure the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets you have.

If your blood cell levels are low, you may have aplastic anemia. Your doctor may then order bone marrow tests. These tests involve using a needle to remove a small sample of bone marrow, usually from the area around the hip. There are two types:

  • Bone marrow aspiration, which involves removing a sample of the more fluid part of the bone marrow

  • Bone marrow biopsy, which involves removing a sample of the more solid part of the bone marrow

In many cases, these two tests are done together. The combination is often called a bone marrow exam. The tissue samples are examined under a microscope, and various tests are performed to determine their characteristics. A bone marrow exam can check for abnormalities in the number, type, size, and shape of the cells, along with certain genetic changes that may have occurred within the cells.

Once doctors diagnose aplastic anemia, they may run additional tests to identify its cause. This can help to design a more effective course of treatment. However, in many cases, the underlying cause remains unknown.

Treatment of aplastic anemia

Depending on the severity of your condition, the doctor may suggest different types of treatments, including the following:

Blood transfusions

You can receive healthy red blood cells and platelets from another person's blood. This may help to relieve the symptoms of your condition, although it doesn't ultimately address the cause of aplastic anemia and is not a cure. You may need frequent transfusions to maintain relatively normal red blood cell and platelet levels.


Medications may help reduce the risk of infections or treat infections when they arise. These may include antibiotics, antiviral, and antifungal drugs.

Immunosuppressive medications

These drugs may be helpful in autoimmune aplastic anemia, in which an individual’s immune system attacks their own bone marrow. The drugs help to suppress an overactive immune system so that it doesn't attack bone marrow cells as much.

Growth factors

These are one of the newest treatment options for aplastic anemia. They help to stimulate the bone marrow to produce more blood cells.

A bone marrow transplant is one of the most effective treatment options for aplastic anemia. You receive healthy bone marrow from a donor to replace your damaged or missing bone marrow cells. The donor may be a close relative (usually a sibling) or someone unrelated to you. In some cases, a bone marrow transplant can cure aplastic anemia.

Your healthcare provider will monitor your condition continuously to see how well the chosen treatment works. They may adjust it if it’s not showing the desired effect.

How long can you live with aplastic anemia?  

With treatment for aplastic anemia, most people experience improvement in their symptoms.

In some people, aplastic anemia can take different courses. Some may live for only a few months after experiencing the first symptoms, while others survive for many years.

Without treatment, mos tpeople with aplastic anemia die within the first year of experiencing symptoms of the condition. People who receive treatment have a higher survival rate than those who don’t receive treatment. Those who undergo a bone marrow transplant may even recover fully.

Aplastic anemia life expectancy can depend on several factors, including:

  • Age of the patient

  • The underlying cause of the disease

  • The severity of the condition

  • How long it took to start treatment after symptoms were first noticed

  • Type of treatment

In general, children with aplastic anemia have a very good chance of long-term survival. More than 90% of children with this condition survive for at least five years.⁷

As patients get older, the outlook may not be as good, but many still have good outcomes. A recent study demonstrated that of adults between the ages of 40 and 59, 70.7% of them survived for at least five years after diagnosis.⁸

Older patients may have a worse outlook overall. The same study showed that just 38.1% of patients aged 60 and older survived for at least five years after diagnosis. However, other studies have shown better outcomes, with one reporting that 74.7% of patients 60 and older survived for at least three years as long as they received appropriate treatment.⁹ ¹⁰

An aplastic anemia diagnosis is not a death sentence. With the right approach to treatment, it's possible to live a normal life for many years. Over time, the aplastic anemia death rate has decreased as research has discovered new treatment options.

One key to improving your chances of survival with aplastic anemia is getting a correct diagnosis as early as possible. Since the symptoms of aplastic anemia are often similar to those of other conditions, many people ignore them. That's why regular check-ups and routine blood tests are important. It’s also important to discuss any health concerns with your doctor as soon as possible.

The prognosis for aplastic anemia

A person’s prognosis is the course doctors expect their disease to take. For each individual, the prognosis for aplastic anemia is different. 

With an early diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to live a relatively normal life for many years. However, this condition can be fatal, especially if left untreated.

Unfortunately, because the cause of most cases remains unknown, it’s difficult to prevent aplastic anemia. Early diagnosis is the key to survival.

The lowdown

Aplastic anemia life expectancy varies from person to person. For some patients, the likelihood of living for at least five years is over 90%. For others, it can be significantly lower.

There are many different treatment options for aplastic anemia. Once you receive a diagnosis, you can start treatment for your condition, which improves your chances of leading a normal life for as long as possible.

Frequently asked questions

Can aplastic anemia lead to death?

If left untreated, aplastic anemia can lead to many serious complications, including death. However, with timely diagnosis and treatment, the aplastic anemia survival rate can be relatively high. Most studies have shown that most patients survive for at least five years in most age groups.

What is the best treatment for aplastic anemia?

In some cases, a bone marrow transplant can cure aplastic anemia. However, it may not be the best solution for everyone and can also cause serious side effects. Also, not everyone can find a suitable bone marrow donor. In those who cannot or prefer not to undergo bone marrow transplants, other treatments may help to manage the condition.

Can aplastic anemia go into remission?

For people with mild aplastic anemia, spontaneous remission is possible. This means that mild aplastic anemia sometimes goes away on its own. However, the condition can later return, so it’s important to stay watchful for symptoms in the future.

  1. Definition & facts for aplastic anemia & myelodysplastic syndromes | National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

  2. Aplastic anemia | Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man

  3. Effective treatment of aplastic anemia secondary to chemoradiotherapy using cyclosporine A (2021)

  4. Communication of benefits and risks of medical radiation: A historical perspective (2011)

  5. Hepatitis associated aplastic anemia: A review (2011)

  6. Aplastic anemia (2023)

  7. Acquired aplastic anemia in children (2013)

  8. Incidence and outcome of acquired aplastic anemia: Real-world data from patients diagnosed in Sweden from 2000–2011 | Haematologica

  9. (As above)

  10. Aplastic anemia in the elderly: A nationwide survey on behalf of the French reference center for aplastic anemia (2018)

Other sources:

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