Hereditary spherocytosis

Hereditary spherocytosis
Hereditary spherocytosis
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 D58.0
ICD-9 282.0
OMIM 182900
DiseasesDB 5827
eMedicine med/2147
MeSH D013103

Hereditary spherocytosis is a genetically-transmitted (autosomal dominant) form of spherocytosis, an auto-hemolytic anemia characterized by the production of red blood cells that are sphere-shaped rather than bi-concave disk shaped (Donut-Shaped), and therefore more prone to hemolysis.[1]



As in non-hereditary spherocytosis, the spleen's hemolysis results in observational symptoms of fatigue, pallor, and jaundice.

The spleen's hemolysis results directly in varying degrees of anemia and hyperbilirubinemia, which in turn result in symptoms of fatigue, pallor, and jaundice.

Acute cases can threaten hypoxemia through anemia and acute kernicterus through hyperbilirubinemia, particularly in newborns.Most cases can be detected soon after birth. An adult with this disease should be aware when they have children to have them tested, although if the child does it will probably be noticed soon after birth. Occasionally, the disease will not be noticed until the child is about 4 or 5 years of age.

Chronic symptoms include anemia, increased blood viscosity, and splenomegaly, a potentially life-threatening enlargement of the spleen due to its increased activity. Furthermore, the detritus of the broken-down blood cells—unconjugated or indirect bilirubin--accumulates in the gallbladder, and can cause pigmented gallstones or "sludge" to develop. In chronic patients, an infection or other illness can cause an increase in the destruction of red blood cells, resulting in the appearance of acute symptoms, a hemolytic crisis. Spherocytosis patients who are heterozygous for a hemochromatosis gene may suffer from iron overload despite the hemochromatosis genes being recessive ( and page 10).


In a peripheral blood smear, the abnormally small red blood cells lacking the central pallor as seen in non-hereditary spherocytosis is typically more marked in hereditary spherocytosis.

Other protein deficiencies cause hereditary elliptocytosis, pyropoikilocytosis or stomatocytosis.

In longstanding cases and in patients who have taken iron supplementation or received numerous blood transfusions, iron overload may be a significant problem, being a potential cause of cardiomyopathy and liver disease. Measuring iron stores is therefore considered part of the diagnostic approach to hereditary spherocytosis.

An osmotic fragility test can aid in the diagnosis.[2] In this test, the spherocytes will rupture in mildly hypotonic solutions - this is due to increased permeability of the spherocyte membrane to salt and water.[3]


Hereditary spherocytosis is an autosomal dominant or recessive trait,[4] most commonly (though not exclusively) found in Northern European and Japanese families, although an estimated 25% of cases are due to spontaneous mutations. A patient has a 50% chance of passing the mutation onto his/her offspring.

Hereditary spherocytosis is caused by a variety of molecular defects in the genes that code for spectrin (alpha and beta), ankyrin,[5] band 3 protein, protein 4.2,[6] and other erythrocyte membrane proteins:

Type OMIM Gene Locus
HS1 182900 ANK1 8p11.2
HS2 182870 SPTB 14q22-q23
HS3 270970 SPTA 1q21
HS4 109270 SLC4A1 17q21-q22
HS5 612690 EPB42 15q15

These proteins are necessary to maintain the normal shape of an erythrocyte, which is a biconcave disk. The integrating protein that is most commonly defective is ankyrin which is responsible for incorporation and binding of spectrin, thus in its dysfunction cytoskeletal instabilities ensue. As the spleen normally targets abnormally shaped red cells (which are typically older), it also destroys spherocytes. In the spleen, the passage from the cords of Billroth into the sinusoids may be seen as a bottleneck, where erythrocytes need to be flexible in order to pass through. In hereditary spherocytosis, erythrocytes fail to pass through and get phagocytosed, causing extravascular hemolysis.[7]


  • Haemolytic crisis, with more pronounced jaundice due to accelerated haemolysis (may be precipitated by infection).
  • Aplastic crisis with dramatic fall in haemoglobin level and (reticulocyte count)-decompensation, usually due to maturation arrest and often associated with megaloblastic changes; may be precipitated by infection, such as influenza, notably with parvovirus.
  • Folate deficiency caused by increased bone marrow requirement.
  • Pigment gall stone, in approximately half of untreated patients.
  • Leg ulcer.
  • Abnormally low results when testing mean blood glucose via Glycated hemoglobin.[8]


As in non-hereditary spherocytosis, acute symptoms of anemia and hyperbilirubinemia indicate treatment with blood transfusions or exchanges and chronic symptoms of anemia and splenomegaly indicate dietary supplementation of folic acid and splenectomy,[9] the surgical removal of the spleen.

Experimental gene therapy exists to treat hereditary spherocytosis in lab mice; however, this treatment has not yet been tried on humans due to all of the risks involved in human gene therapy.

To decrease the risk of sepsis, post-splenectomy spherocytosis patients require immunization against the pneumococcus bacterium, influenza virus, and prophylactic antibiotic treatment when undergoing dental work or surgical procedures.


It is the most common (1 in 2,000 of Northern European ancestry) disorder of the red cell membrane.

See also


  1. ^ Cotran, Ramzi S.; Kumar, Vinay; Fausto, Nelson; Nelso Fausto; Robbins, Stanley L.; Abbas, Abul K. (2005). Robbins and Cotran pathologic basis of disease. St. Louis, Mo: Elsevier Saunders. pp. 625. ISBN 0-7216-0187-1. 
  2. ^ Won DI, Suh JS (March 2009). "Flow cytometric detection of erythrocyte osmotic fragility". Cytometry B Clin Cytom 76 (2): 135–41. doi:10.1002/cyto.b.20448. PMID 18727072. 
  3. ^ Goljan. Rapid Review Pathology. 2010. Page 213.
  4. ^ Eber S, Lux SE (April 2004). "Hereditary spherocytosis--defects in proteins that connect the membrane skeleton to the lipid bilayer". Semin. Hematol. 41 (2): 118–41. doi:10.1053/j.seminhematol.2004.01.002. PMID 15071790. 
  5. ^ Gallagher PG, Forget BG (December 1998). "Hematologically important mutations: spectrin and ankyrin variants in hereditary spherocytosis". Blood Cells Mol. Dis. 24 (4): 539–43. doi:10.1006/bcmd.1998.0217. PMID 9887280. 
  6. ^ Perrotta S, Gallagher PG, Mohandas N (October 2008). "Hereditary spherocytosis". Lancet 372 (9647): 1411–26. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(08)61588-3. PMID 18940465. 
  7. ^ Chapter 12, page 425 in: Mitchell, Richard Sheppard; Kumar, Vinay; Abbas, Abul K.; Fausto, Nelson. Robbins Basic Pathology. Philadelphia: Saunders. ISBN 1-4160-2973-7.  8th edition.
  8. ^ IKutter, D. and Thoma, J. (2006) 'Hereditary spherocytosis and other hemolytic anomalies distort diabetic control by glycated hemoglobin', Clinical Laboratory, 52(9-10), 477-481.
  9. ^ Bolton-Maggs PH, Stevens RF, Dodd NJ, Lamont G, Tittensor P, King MJ (August 2004). "Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of hereditary spherocytosis". Br. J. Haematol. 126 (4): 455–74. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2141.2004.05052.x. PMID 15287938. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • hereditary spherocytosis — n a disorder of red blood cells that is inherited as a dominant trait and is characterized by anemia, small thick fragile spherocytes which are extremely susceptible to hemolysis, enlargement of the spleen, reticulocytosis, and mild jaundice * *… …   Medical dictionary

  • Hereditary spherocytosis (HS) — A genetic disorder of the red blood cell membrane clinically characterized by anemia, jaundice (yellowing) and splenomegaly (enlargement of the spleen). In HS the red cells are smaller, rounder, and more fragile than normal. The red cells have a… …   Medical dictionary

  • hereditary spherocytosis — ▪ disease       congenital blood disorder (blood disease) characterized by an enlarged spleen, spherical (rather than disk shaped) red blood cells (erythrocyte) of variable size and increased fragility of cell membrane, and a chronic, mild… …   Universalium

  • HS (hereditary spherocytosis) — A genetic disorder of the red blood cell membrane clinically characterized by anemia, jaundice (yellowing) and splenomegaly (enlargement of the spleen). In HS the red cells are smaller, rounder, and more fragile than normal. The red cells have a… …   Medical dictionary

  • Hereditary elliptocytosis — Classification and external resources Blood smear showing elliptocytes ICD 10 D …   Wikipedia

  • Spherocytosis — Infobox Disease Name = PAGENAME Caption = DiseasesDB = 12289 ICD10 = ICD10|D|58|0|d|55 ICD9 = ICD9|282.0 ICDO = OMIM = 182900 OMIM mul = OMIM2|270970 MedlinePlus = 000530 eMedicineSubj = med eMedicineTopic = 2147 MeshID = Spherocytosis is an auto …   Wikipedia

  • Spherocytosis, hereditary (HS) — A genetic disorder of the red blood cell membrane clinically characterized by anemia, jaundice (yellowing) and splenomegaly (enlargement of the spleen). In HS the red cells are smaller, rounder, and more fragile than normal. The red cells have a… …   Medical dictionary

  • spherocytosis — Presence of sphere shaped red blood cells in the blood. SYN: microspherocytosis. [spherocyte + G. osis, condition] hereditary s. [MIM*182900] a congenital defect of spectrin [MIM*182860], the main component of the …   Medical dictionary

  • spherocytosis — n. the presence in the blood of abnormally shaped red cells (spherocytes). Spherocytosis may occur as a hereditary disorder (hereditary spherocytosis) or in certain haemolytic anaemias …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • spherocytosis — A condition in which erythrocytes lose their biconcave shape and become spherical. It occurs as cells age, and is also found in individuals with abnormal cytoskeletal proteins, (hereditary spherocytosis, a disorder that leads to haemolytic… …   Dictionary of molecular biology

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