Childhood Thalassemia

What Is Thalassemia?

There are many types of thalassemia. The thalassemias are a group of inherited blood disorders in which the genes that produce hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body, are broken. As a result, the red blood cells do not contain enough hemoglobin, causing anemia that can range from mild to life-threatening.

Thalassemia can come in different forms depending on the genetic mutations causing it. The transfusion-dependent form, also called thalassemia major or Cooley's anemia, requires lifelong follow-up care and regular blood transfusions. Some other forms are more readily managed and may require little or no treatment.

Thalassemia Treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's

At the Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Thalassemia Program, our experts provide comprehensive care for children and adults with all forms of thalassemia. Treatment for thalassemia depends on the subtype, but may include:

  • blood transfusions for anemia
  • regular and comprehensive monitoring for complications of thalassemia and its treatment
  • iron chelation therapy, to remove excess iron from the body
  • for certain cases, stem cell transplantation to replace the blood-forming stem cells with the defective hemoglobin gene(s)

Find more in-depth information on thalassemia on the Boston Children's Hospital website, including answers to:

  • What are the different types of thalassemia?
  • How is thalassemia in children diagnosed?
  • How is thalassemia in children treated?
  • What is the latest research on thalassemia?