The anaemic patient basics and pitfalls
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The anaemic patient Basics and pitfalls. Bettie Oberholster 2013. Day to day “Working” definition of anaemia. Hb too low for age and gender at a given altitude . Journey. DESTINATION. STARTING POINT. Effective treatment. Establishing the underlying cause. Presence of an anaemia .

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The anaemic patient basics and pitfalls

The anaemic patientBasics and pitfalls

Bettie Oberholster


Day to day working definition of anaemia

Day to day “Working” definition of anaemia

Hb too low for age and gender at a given altitude





The anaemic patient basics and pitfalls

Effective treatment

Establishing the underlying cause

Presence of an anaemia

Potential causes

Potential causes



Bone marrow

Lack of nutritients (iron, vit B12, folate)


Primary BM disorders

↓ Thropic hormones

(EPO, thyroid, androgens)


Bone marrow suppression by e.g. drugs, virus infections

BM Infiltration

↑Plasma volume

Which route

Which route ?

Cause & Effective treatment


waste time and may be expensive

Fast and cost-effective


may land up at wrong destination or get lost

Anaemic Patient

Best route

Best Route ?

GPS Route Guidance

Gps history and clinical findings

GPS: “History and clinical findings”

  • Obvious blood loss

  • Drug history e.g chemotherapy, ARV’s

  • Chronic disease e.g. renal disease, SLE, malignancy

  • Organomegaly

  • Family history

Gps reticulocyte count

GPS: “Reticulocyte count”

Do not use the % count


The anaemic patient basics and pitfalls

Blood loss

Response to hematinics

Bone marrow production defect


Red cell indices



SCREEN: confirm the presence of hemolysis

  • Raised unconjugatedbilirubin

  • Raised LDH

  • Decreased haptoglobin

  • Increased urinary urobilinogen

  • Haemosiderin in the urine (IV)

You still need to find out WHY the patient is hemolysing

Examination of blood smear is important for clues

The anaemic patient basics and pitfalls

Direct coombs

Red cell membrane studies

Micro-angiopathic hemolytic anaemia


Gps red cell parameters

GPS: “Red cell parameters”

  • MCV = mean corpuscular volume

    (mean size of a red cell)

  • MCH = mean corpuscular hemoglobin

    (mean Hb per red cell)

The anaemic patient basics and pitfalls

Iron studies

Renal functions

Iron studies

Vit B12 and RBC folate, TSH, LFT

Important iron vit b12 and red cell folate studies before any blood transfusion

ImportantIron, vit B12 and red cell folate studiesBEFORE any blood transfusion

Gps iron studies

GPS: “Iron studies”

The anaemic patient basics and pitfalls

Normal ferritin does not exclude iron deficiency

Ferritin: 30-100 and % sat < 16%

May be iron deficiency in presence of an acute phase

Soluble serum transferrin receptor assay (sTfR)

The anaemic patient basics and pitfalls

Not all hypochromicmicrocyticanaemias are iron deficiencies or anaemia of chronic disease !!

Thalassaemia or hemoglobinopathy

(RBC count normal to high)

Hb electrophoresis/abnormal hemoglobin screen (HPLC)

Make sure that iron status is normal

DNA testing to exclude alfathalassaemia, lead levels and possible BM for sideroblasticanaemia

Macrocytic anaemia

Macrocytic anaemia

Normal Vit B12/folate

Normal LFT

Normal TSH

No drug history

Do not miss underlying Myelodysplastic disorder

Gps phone a friend local pathologist

GPS: “Phone a friend: Local Pathologist”

  • Clues blood smear findings

  • Advice further investigations

Gps bone marrow

GPS: “Bone marrow”

Unexplained anaemia with low RPI

FBC: pancytopenia, bicytopenia or abnormal WBC

Abnormal cells on blood smear e.g. blasts, dysplasia

Leuco-erythroblastic reaction

Bm not always the best route

BM not always the best route

  • Unexplained Iron Deficiency ?

  • Celiac disease

  • Antibodies

  • Small bowel biopsy

  • HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8

  • PNH

Right destination

Right destination

The anaemic patient basics and pitfalls

Take home message

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