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Drug-induced haemolytic anaemia.

Haemolysis Hae`mol´y`sis   

n. 1. (Physiol.) Same as Hæmatolysis, Hæmatolytic.
hemolysis, haemolysis
the breaking down of erythrocytes with liberation of hemoglobin in the blood.
 may be induced by external agents, including drugs, food and environmental chemical agents. In susceptible individuals, haemolysis can be a life-threatening adverse drug reaction adverse drug reaction,
n a detrimental outcome from a drug. Two types of ADRs exist: Type 1 results from dosage mismatch and Type 2 from rare conditions often as a consequence of a small dose. See also risk or sensitive type.
. Haemolysis induced by drugs may be immune-mediated or by oxidative haemolysis. Drug-induced immune haemolysis is an idiosyncratic reaction, while oxidative haemolysis is usually associated with G6PD deficiency and follows exposure to identified oxidative stressors.

This review will consider a brief overview of haemolytic anaemia. The pathophysiology, clinical presentation and management of drug-induced immune haemolytic anaemia and oxidative haemolysis will be discussed separately.

Overview of haemolytic anaemia

A normal red blood cell red blood cell: see blood.  has a lifespan of 120 days. Haemolysis occurs when this lifespan is significantly shortened. In compensated haemolysis (which is asymptomatic) red cell mass is maintained at normal values by increased erythropoiesis erythropoiesis /eryth·ro·poi·e·sis/ (-poi-e´sis) the formation of erythrocytes.erythropoiet´ic

The formation or production of red blood cells.
. Haemolytic anaemia occurs when the pace of red blood cell production does not match red cell destruction, either because red cell survival is extremely short or because the bone marrow is unable to compensate (e.g. due to folate folate /fo·late/ (fo´lat)
1. the anionic form of folic acid.

2. more generally, any of a group of substances containing a form of pteroic acid conjugated with l-glutamic acid and having a variety of substitutions.
 or iron deficiency).

The site of red blood cell destruction may be intravascular or extravascular ex·tra·vas·cu·lar
1. Located or occurring outside a blood or lymph vessel.

2. Lacking vessels; nonvascular.


situated or occurring outside a vessel or the vessels.
 (primarily the spleen). Intravascular haemolysis is the destruction of red cells in the circulation with release of cell contents into the plasma. Complement fixation and activation on the red cell surface typically results in intravascular haemolysis. Extravascular haemolysis is the removal and destruction of erythrocytes by the reticuloendothelial system, primarily the spleen. As circulating blood is continuously filtered through the splenic sinusoids, the normal 8 micron red blood cell can deform itself and pass through the 3 micron openings of the splenic cord. A red blood cell (RBC RBC red blood cell.

RBC or rbc
red blood cell

n See red blood cell count.


red blood cells; red blood (cell) count (see blood count).
) with membrane abnormality (e.g. hereditary spherocytosis or RBC coated with antibodies) is not able to transverse the sinusoidal sinusoidal /si·nus·oi·dal/ (si?nu-soi´dal)
1. located in a sinusoid or affecting the circulation in the region of a sinusoid.

2. shaped like or pertaining to a sine wave.
 network and is then phagocytosed and destroyed by macrophages.

Haemolytic anaemia may be hereditary or acquired. Causes of hereditary haemolysis include membranopathies (e.g. hereditary spherocytosis, hereditary elliptocytosis), enzymopathies (e.g. G6PD deficiency, pyruvate kinase deficiency Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency Definition

Pyruvate kinase deficiency (PKD) is part of a group of disorders called hereditary nonspherocytic hemolytic anemias. Hereditary nonspherocytic anemias are rare genetic conditions that affect the red blood cells.
) and haemoglobinopathies (e.g. thalassaemia Noun 1. thalassaemia - an inherited form of anemia caused by faulty synthesis of hemoglobin
Mediterranean anaemia, Mediterranean anemia, thalassemia

monogenic disease, monogenic disorder - an inherited disease controlled by a single pair of genes
, sickle cell disease sickle cell disease or sickle cell anemia, inherited disorder of the blood in which the oxygen-carrying hemoglobin pigment in erythrocytes (red blood cells) is abnormal. ). Acquired haemolytic anaemia may be immune mediated, either idiopathic, or associated with malignancy, autoimmune disorders, drugs, infections and transfusions. It can also result from mechanical disruption of RBC, resulting in microangiopathic haemolytic anaemia, which is associated with disseminated intravascular coagulation disseminated intravascular coagulation
Abbr. DIC A hemorrhagic disorder that occurs following the uncontrolled activation of clotting factors and fibrinolytic enzymes throughout small blood vessels, resulting in tissue necrosis and
, prosthetic valves and malignant hypertension.

Clinical features common to all types of haemolysis include pallor, fluctuating jaundice and mild splenomegaly splenomegaly /sple·no·meg·a·ly/ (-meg´ah-le) enlargement of the spleen.

congestive splenomegaly  Banti's disease; splenomegaly secondary to portal hypertension.
. The aim is to confirm haemolysis, find and treat the underlying cause. Table I lists the laboratory findings that help to establish the diagnosis.

Drug-induced immune haemolytic anaemia (DIIHA)

These are IgG- and IgM-mediated disorders that produce positive direct antiglobulin (Coombs') tests that are clinically and serologically indistinct from autoimmune haemolytic anaemia. Drug-induced immune haemolysis may occur by one of three mechanisms. Firstly, the drug (e.g. penicillin) bound to the RBC membrane acts as a hapten hapten /hap·ten/ (hap´ten) partial antigen; a specific nonprotein substance which does not itself elicit antibody formation but does elicit the immune response when coupled with a carrier protein.  stimulating IgG antibody production. Secondly, the drug (e.g. quinine) induces IgM antibody production. The drug antibody immune complex thus formed binds to the RBC membrane and initiates complement activation, resulting in intravascular haemolysis, which is often severe. Thirdly, the drug (e.g. methyldopa methyldopa /meth·yl·do·pa/ (-do´pah) a phenylalanine derivative used in the treatment of hypertension.

A drug used in the treatment of high blood pressure.
) induces the formation of autoimmune antierythrocyte IgG antibodies. Haemolysis in this setting is typically mild. Table II lists the examples of drugs reported to cause immune-mediated haemolysis and their clinical and laboratory features.

Discontinuation of the offending drug usually results in prompt resolution of the haemolysis. Corticosteroids have a limited role and have been used in severe cases.

Drug-induced oxidative (nonimmune) haemolytic anaemia

The normal RBC undergoes auto-oxidation of haemoglobin to methaemoglobin Met`haem`o`glo´bin

n. 1. (Physiol. Chem.) A stable crystalline compound obtained by the decomposition of hemoglobin. It is found in old blood stains.
 at a slow rate. The formation and reduction of methaemoglobin is about 1% of total haemoglobin. Some drugs may oxidise haemoglobin to methaemoglobin directly. Drug-induced oxidant damage to red cells presents in a variety of disorders of which methaemoglobinaemia and/or intravascular haemolysis are the main components. This can occur in red cells with impaired oxidant defence or red cells with normal reducing capacity.

Oxidative haemolysis in RBCs with defective metabolism

This is most often associated with G6PD deficiency. G6PD deficiency is the commonest RBC enzymopathy, affecting over 400 million people globally. West Africa, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and South East Asia have the highest prevalence. In southern Africa it has a prevalence of 3.0-6.9%. The inheritance is X-linked, affecting males and homozygous females. Heterozygous het·er·o·zy·gous
1. Having different alleles at one or more corresponding chromosomal loci.

2. Of or relating to a heterozygote.
 females are carriers for the gene and have normal G6PD G6PD glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase.


glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase.

G6PD deficiency increases the vulnerability of the erythrocytes to oxidative stress. G6PD catalyses nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate: see coenzyme.
Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) 
 phosphate (NADP NADP: see coenzyme. ) to its reduced form NADPH NADPH the reduced form of NADP.

The reduced form of NADP.


reduced form of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP) used in a number of reductive synthesis such as fatty
. NADPH protects erythrocytes from oxidative stress. The decreased enzyme activity results in low NADPH and haemolysis occurs following oxidative stressors.

Ingestion of fava beans, drugs, toxins (Table III), and intercurrent intercurrent /in·ter·cur·rent/ (-kur´ent) occurring during and modifying the course of another disease.

 illnesses induce oxidative stress. This causes intracellular formation of hydrogen peroxide ([H.sub.2][O.sub.2]) and other oxidising radicals which cause cell lysis.

Clinical presentation depends mainly on the G6PD variant, which may differ in its severity. The Mediterranean variant is the most severe. The main syndromes include acute haemolysis following oxidative stress, neonatal hyperbilirubinaemia and rarely congenital non-spherocytic anaemia. Severe, life-threatening intravascular haemolytic anaemia may occur. Onset is typically within a few days of exposure to the drug or other stressor.

Although G6PD deficiency is not very common in South Africa, clinicians need to have a high index of suspicion index of suspicion Medtalk A phrase broadly used to indicate how seriously a particular disease is being entertained as a diagnosis; as an example, there is a high IOS that rapid and unexplained weight loss in an elderly Pt is due to pancreas CA, and a low IOS that  in patients who are immigrants from high-prevalence areas. Diagnosis is suggested by family history and haemolysis that follows known oxidative stressors. The diagnosis is confirmed by measuring G6PD levels. Because of the higher enzyme level in young red cells, the enzyme assay may give a false normal level in the phase of acute haemolysis with reticulocytosis. The mainstay of treatment is avoidance of oxidative stressors.

Oxidative haemolysis in RBCs with normal reducing activity

The use of oxidative drugs (e.g. dapsone dapsone /dap·sone/ (dap´son) an antibacterial bacteriostatic for a broad spectrum of gram-positive and gram-negative organisms; used as a leprostatic, as a dermatitis herpetiformis suppressant, and in the prophylaxis of falciparum  and salazopyrin--see Table IV) may produce methaemoglobinaemia. Methaemoglobinaemia is characterised by the presence of mild cyanosis cyanosis (sī'ənō`sĭs), bluish coloration of the skin, mucous membranes, and nailbeds, resulting from a lack of oxygenated hemoglobin in the blood. , variable haemolysis, and elevated methaemoglobin. Cyanosis is clinically apparent at low concentrations of methaemoglobin. It should be suspected in patients with cyanosis who do not have cardiorespiratory disease. Asymptomatic methaemoglobinaemia is common with prolonged administration of certain drugs (e.g. dapsone). Symptoms develop when 35 - 40% of haemoglobin is in the oxidised form. For severe symptomatic methaemoglobinaemia, methylene blue, an antidote that converts methaemoglobin to haemoglobin is indicated. This is contraindicated in patients with G6PD deficiency, and exchange transfusion should be considered in this setting.

Reporting drug-induced haemolysis

Drug-induced haemolytic anaemia is typically a rare adverse drug reaction which is usually not identified before marketing of new drugs. The identification of offending drugs during post-marketing surveillance relies on case reports by caregivers and clinical researchers. It is vital to report drug-induced haemolysis when the offending drug is new or not a well-established cause of haemolysis. Adverse drug reactions should be reported to the National Adverse Drug Event Monitoring Centre (NADEMC), tel (021) 447-1618, fax (021) 448-6181.

Recommended reading

Ammus S, Yunis AA. Drug-induced red cell dyscrasias. Blood Rev 1989; 3: 71-82.

Dhaliwal G, Cornett For the place in England, see .
The cornett, cornetto or zink is an early wind instrument, dating from the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods. It was used in what are now called alta capellas or wind ensembles.
 PA, Tierney LM. Hemolytic anemia. Am Fam Physician 2004; 69: 2599-2606.

Frank JE. Diagnosis and management of G6PD deficiency. Am Fam Physician 2005; 72: 1277-1282.

Gehrs BC, Friedberg RC. Autoimmune hemolytic anemia autoimmune hemolytic anemia
Either of two forms of hemolytic anemia involving autoantibodies against red cell antigens; a cold-antibody type, caused by hemagglutinating cold antibody; and a warm-antibody type, due to serum autoantibodies that react
. Am J Hematol 2002; 69: 258-271.

Gibbon CJ, Blockman M, eds. South African Medicines Formulary. 7th ed. Cape Town: Health and Medical Publishing Group of the South African Medical Association The South African Medical Association (SAMA) is a trade union in South Africa. It is affiliated with the Congress of South African Trade Unions. External links
  • SAMA at the COSATU.
, 2005.

Hoffbrand AV, Moss PAH, Pettit JE, eds. Essential Haematology. 5th ed. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006.

Johnson ST, FuegerJT, Gottschall JL. One center's experience: The serology and drugs associated with drug-induced immune hemolytic he·mo·lyt·ic
Destructive to red blood cells; hematolytic.

Referring to the destruction of the cell membranes of red blood cells, resulting in the release of hemoglobin from the damaged cell.
 anemia--a new paradigm. Transfusion 2007; 47: 697-702.

Schrier SL. Extrinsic nonautoimmune hemolytic anemia due to drugs and toxins. UpToDate[R] S Last accessed: 16/04/07.

In a nutshell

* Drug-induced haemolytic anaemia is rare, but can be a life-threatening event in susceptible individuals.

* The mechanisms of drug-induced haemolysis are either immune mediated or by oxidative haemolysis (typically in G6PD-deficient individuals or by causing methaemoglobinaemia).

* The mainstay of treatment is discontinuation and avoidance of the offending drugs.



Division of Clinical Pharmacology University of Cape Town Coordinates:
“UCT” redirects here. For other uses, see UCT (disambiguation).
Table I. Laboratory findings
Suggest haemolysis

* Full blood count: reticulocytosis
  with or without low Hb; mild
* Blood smear: polychromasia and
  basophilic stippling
* Liver function test: increased
  unconjugated bilirubin and LDH
  or AST

To confirm haemolysis

* Decreased haptoglobin

Features suggestive of intravascular

* Haemoglobinaemia
* Haemoglobinuria
* Haemosiderinuria

Hb = haemoglobin; LDH = lactate dehydrogenase;
AST = aspartate aminotransferase

Table II. Mechanisms of drug-induced immune haemolytic anaemia,
clinical and laboratory features

Mechanism         Hapten-RBC       Immune complex       Autoantibody

Duration of     Days to weeks    Days                  Months
therapy prior
to haemolysis

Clinical        Subacute         Acute onset, can      Gradual onset of
findings        haemolysis       be life threatening   haemolytic
                (7-10 days),     with evidence of      anaemia,
                can be life      intravascular         progressive if
                threatening      haemolysis            therapy
                if drugs                               continued

Coombs' test    Positive         Positive anti-C3

Site of         Extravascular    Intravascular         Positive
haemolysis      Penicillins      Paracetamol             anti-IgG
Drugs *         Cephalosporins   Chlorpromazine        Extravascular
                                 Hydralazine           Methyldopa
                                 Hydrochlorothiazide   Diclofenac
                                 Insulin               Ibuprofen
                                 Isoniazid             Mefenamic acid
                                 Quinidine             Interferon alpha
                                 Quinine               L-dopa
                                 Probenecid            Procainamide

* Disclaimer--the lists provided are examples of commonly used
drugs and are not inclusive of all drugs reported to cause haemolytic

Table III. Agents * that may cause haemolytic anaemia in G6PD

* Antimalarials: primaquine, chloroquine, sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine
* Sulphonamides and sulphones: co-trimoxazole, dapsone, salazopyrin
* Other antibacterials: nalidixic acid, nitrofurantoin, chloramphenicol
* Analgesics: aspirin (high doses)
* Miscellaneous: vitamin K analogues, naphthalene (mothballs and
  henna), probenecid, methylene blue
* Fava beans

* Disclaimer--the lists provided are examples of commonly used drugs
and are not inclusive of all drugs reported to cause haemolytic

Table IV. Methaemoglobin-inducing agents *

* Dapsone
* Salazopyrin
* Nitrites and nitrates
* Topical benzocaine or lignocaine
* Lead poisoning
* Copper in Wilson's disease
* Paraquat ingestion

* Disclaimer--the lists provided are examples of
commonly used drugs and are not inclusive of all drugs
reported to cause haemolytic anaemia
COPYRIGHT 2007 South African Medical Association
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Clinical pharmacology
Author:Sinxadi, Phumla; Maartens, Gary
Publication:CME: Your SA Journal of CPD
Article Type:Disease/Disorder overview
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Jun 1, 2007
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