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Hemolytic crisis

Hemolytic crisis is the rapid destruction of large numbers of red blood cells (hemolysis). The destruction occurs much faster than the body can produce new red blood cells.

Considerations

During a hemolytic crisis the body cannot make enough red blood cells to replace those that are destroyed.

This causes acute and often severe anemia.

The part of red blood cells that carries oxygen (hemoglobin) is released into the bloodstream, which can lead to kidney damage.

Causes of Hemolytic crisis

Causes of hemolysis include:

  • A lack of certain proteins inside red blood cells
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Certain infections
  • Defects in the hemoglobin molecules inside red blood cells
  • Defects of the proteins that make up the internal framework of red blood cells
  • Medication side effects
  • Reactions to blood transfusions

When to Contact a Health Professional

Call your doctor or nurse if you have:

  • Symptoms of anemia, including pale skin or fatigue, especially if these symptoms get worse
  • Urine that is red, red-brown, or brown (tea-colored)

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Emergency treatment may be necessary. This may include a hospital stay, oxygen, blood transfusions, and other treatments.

When your condition is stable, your doctor or nurse will perform a physical examination and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms. The physical exam may occasionally show swelling of the spleen (splenomegaly).

Tests that may be done include:

References

Schwartz RS. Autoimmune and intravascular hemolytic anemias In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 163.

Gallagher PG. Hemolytic anemias:  red cell membrane and metabolic defects In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 164.

Schrier SL, Price EA. Extrinsic nonimmune hemolytic anemias. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Shattil SS, et al., eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 48.

Review Date: 2/8/2012
Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Palm Beach Cancer Institute, West Palm Beach, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington; David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2014 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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