What is myelodysplastic syndrome?

Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is a rare disease that keeps the body from properly producing blood cells. MDS develops in the bone marrow. With MDS, blood cells lose their ability to mature and function properly.


The most common symptoms of MDS include:

  • anemia  (low red blood cell count)
  • easy bruising or abnormal bleeding (prolonged nose bleeds or bleeding from the gums)
  • frequent infections


MDS is often more difficult to diagnose than other bone marrow disorders, especially in children. To diagnose MDS, your child’s doctor will do a complete physical examination and medical history. He or she may also order one or more of the following tests:

  • blood tests
  • bone marrow biopsy and aspiration
  • chromosomal analysis


Treatment may include medications or blood transfusions to help control symptoms and complications.

In most cases, MDS in children can be cured only through a hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT). HSCT uses high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy to destroy all the cells in the bone marrow, both healthy and diseased. These cells are replaced with healthy cells from the bone marrow of another person (donor).

Learn more about Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Stem Cell Transplant services at Boston Children’s Health Physicians.

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