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Bone Marrow Failure Syndrome

The marrow inside our bones is responsible for making the blood cells our bodies need. When this process is interrupted or fails, it can cause a wide variety of health problems, some of which can be life threatening.

Because their bodies are still growing, children with bone marrow failure present more complicated cases than grownups and may be at higher risk for life-threatening complications. Here at Cook Children's we are dedicated to diagnosing and treating both the conditions that cause bone marrow failure in children, and those conditions that result from bone marrow failure. We are also actively involved in research programs to help prevent bone marrow failure and the resulting complications.

What is bone marrow failure?

The body needs three types of blood cells to function properly:

When the marrow in our bones doesn't produce enough of any or all of these blood cells, children may develop a variety of health problems not only in the blood, but throughout the body. One or more functions or systems in the body may be affected, including the kidneys, heart, lungs, bones, nerves and hormones. In addition, children with bone marrow failure may also be at risk for leukemia and other types of cancers.

Some types of bone marrow failure can be genetic, meaning it is a condition that is inherited from one or both parents. Other types of this condition can be acquired.


Because there are many conditions caused by bone marrow failure, there are also many symptoms. The symptoms your child has will depend on what is causing the failure, what blood cells are affected and how those cells are affecting other parts of your child's body. Some of the most common symptoms, by cell type, include:

  • White blood cells – your child may get sick more easily or more often than other children and be more prone to infections.
  • Red blood cells – Your child may tire easily, not play as much or may become much less active or listless, become pale or ashen and complain of dizziness.
  • Platelets – when the platelets are involved, you may notice that your child bruises more easily or that cuts bleed longer.

Testing and diagnosis

The kinds of tests the hematology and oncology team will perform to find the cause of your child's condition and determine the best course of treatment will depend on the symptoms and any related medical conditions your child may have. In most cases, the tests will include:

  • A detailed health history of the child and parents
  • A thorough physical examination
  • A bone marrow biopsy
  • Imaging to see if there are other medical issues inside the body that are related to the bone marrow failure

Other testing may be required to fully diagnose your child's specific conditions and ensure the best course of treatment.


Once the hematology and oncology team has a diagnosis, they will sit down with you and your child to discuss the treatment options available and work with you to determine the preferred course of action for your child. Depending on the cause of your child's condition, the symptoms and the results of testing and diagnoses, your child's treatment plan may include:

We are here to help.

If your child has been diagnosed, you probably have lots of questions. We can help. If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices at 682-885-4007.