Fast Five Quiz: Anemia

Emmanuel C. Besa, MD


February 20, 2019

Treatment of aplastic disorders includes removal of the offending agent whenever it can be identified, supportive therapy for the anemia and thrombocytopenia, and prompt treatment of infection. Avoid transfusion in patients with a potential bone marrow donor, because transfusion worsens the probability of cure from transplantation. As part of supportive therapy, the British Committee for Standards in Haematology guidelines recommend immunosuppression with antithymocyte globulin and cyclosporine as first-line therapy in these adult patients:

  • Patients with severe or very severe aplastic anemia who lack a matched sibling donor

  • Patients aged > 35-50 years with severe or very severe aplastic anemia

The appropriate treatment of anemia resulting from blood loss is correction of the underlying condition and oral administration of ferrous sulfate until the anemia is corrected and for several months afterward to ensure that body stores are replete with iron. Relatively few indications exist for the use of parenteral iron therapy, and blood transfusions should be reserved for the treatment of shock or hypoxia. Although the traditional dosage of ferrous sulfate is 325 mg (65 mg of elemental iron) orally three times a day, lower doses (eg, 15-20 mg of elemental iron daily) may be as effective and cause fewer side effects. To promote absorption, patients should avoid tea and coffee and may take vitamin C (500 units) with the iron pill once daily. If ferrous sulfate has unacceptable side effects, ferrous gluconate, 325 mg daily (35 mg of elemental iron) is a possible alternative for patients who cannot tolerate ferrous sulfate.

Corticosteroids are indicated in AIHA. Nutritional therapy is used to treat deficiencies of iron, vitamin B-12, and folic acid. Pyridoxine may be useful in the treatment of certain patients with sideroblastic anemia, even though it is not a deficiency disorder. A strict vegetarian diet requires iron and vitamin B-12 supplementation. Iron-deficiency anemia is prevalent in geographic locations where little meat is in the diet. Many of these locations have sufficient dietary inorganic iron to equal the iron content in persons residing in countries in which meat is eaten. However, heme iron is more efficiently absorbed than inorganic food iron. Folic acid deficiency occurs among people who consume few leafy vegetables. Coexistence of iron and folic acid deficiency is common in developing nations.

Read more about the treatment of anemia.

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