1. Study Questions 2. Homework Assignment 3. Exam for Unit I
In Chapter 12, you will be introduced to the thalassemias. You will learn about the pathophysiology, clinical signs and symptoms, laboratory test results, and treatments for both the alpha and beta forms of thalassemia. Subclasses of each major form of thalassemia will be discussed.
Introduction to Thalassemia
Thalassemia 1 of 2
Diverse group of disorders which manifest as anemia of varying degrees.
Result of defective production of globin portion of hemoglobin molecule.
Distribution is worldwide.
May be either homozygous defect or heterozygous defect.
Defect results from abnormal rate of synthesis in one of the globin chains.
Globin chains structurally normal (is how differentiated from hemoglobinopathy), but have imbalance in production of two different types of chains.
Thalassemia 2 of 2
Results in overall decrease in amount of hemoglobin produced and may induce hemolysis.
Two major types of thalassemia:
Alpha ( α ) - Caused by defect in rate of synthesis of alpha chains.
Beta ( β ) - Caused by defect in rate of synthesis in beta chains.
May contribute protection against malaria.
Genetics of Thalassemia
Adult hemoglobin composed two alpha and two beta chains.
Alpha thalassemia usually caused by gene deletion; Beta thalassemia usually caused by mutation.
Results in microcytic, hypochromic anemias of varying severity.
Classical Syndromes of Beta Thalassemia
Silent carrier state – the mildest form of beta thalassemia.
Beta thalassemia minor - heterozygous disorder resulting in mild hypochromic, microcytic hemolytic anemia.
Beta thalassemia intermedia - Severity lies between the minor and major.
Beta thalassemia major - homozygous disorder resulting in severe transfusion-dependent hemolytic anemia.
Silent Carrier State for β Thalassemia
Are various heterogenous beta mutations that produce only small decrease in production of beta chains.
Patients have nearly normal beta/alpha chain ratio and no hematologic abnormalities.
Have normal levels of Hb A 2 .
Beta Thalassemia Minor 1 of 2
Caused by heterogenous mutations that affect beta globin synthesis.
Usually presents as mild, asymptomatic hemolytic anemia unless patient in under stress such as pregnancy, infection, or folic acid deficiency.
Have one normal beta gene and one mutated beta gene.
Hemoglobin level in 10-13 g/dL range with normal or slightly elevated RBC count.
Beta Thalassemia Minor 2 of 2
Anemia usually hypochromic and microcytic with slight aniso and poik, including target cells and elliptocytes; May see basophilic stippling.
Rarely see hepatomegaly or splenomegaly.
Have high Hb A 2 levels (3.5-8.0%) and normal to slightly elevated Hb F levels.
Are different variations of this form depending upon which gene has mutated.
Normally require no treatment.
Make sure are not diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia.
Beta Thalassemia Intermedia 1 of 2
Patients able to maintain minimum hemoglobin (7 g/dL or greater) without transfusions.
Expression of disorder falls between thalassemia minor and thalassemia major. May be either heterozygous for mutations causing mild decrease in beta chain production, or may be homozygous causing a more serious reduction in beta chain production.
See increase in both Hb A 2 production and Hb F production.
Peripheral blood smear picture similar to thalassemia minor.
Beta Thalassemia Intermedia 2 of 2
Have varying symptoms of anemia, jaundice, splenomegaly and hepatomegaly.
Have significant increase in bilirubin levels.
Anemia usually becomes worse with infections, pregnancy, or folic acid deficiencies.
May become transfusion dependent as adults.
Tend to develop iron overloads as result of increased gastrointestinal absorption.
Usually survive into adulthood.
Beta Thalassemia Major 1 of 3
Characterized by severe microcytic, hypochromic anemia.
Detected early in childhood:
Infants fail to thrive.
Have pallor, variable degree of jaundice, abdominal enlargement, and hepatosplenomegaly.
Hemoglobin level between 4 and 8 gm/dL.
Severe anemia causes marked bone changes due to expansion of marrow space for increased erythropoiesis.
See characteristic changes in skull, long bones, and hand bones.
Beta Thalassemia Major 2 of 3
Have protrusion upper teeth and Mongoloid facial features.
Physical growth and development delayed.
Peripheral blood shows markedly hypochromic, microcytic erythrocytes with extreme poikilocytosis, such as target cells, teardrop cells and elliptocytes. See marked basophilic stippling and numerous NRBCs.
MCV in range of 50 to 60 fL.
Low retic count seen (2-8%).
Most of hemoglobin present is Hb F with slight increase in Hb A 2 .
Beta Thalassemia Major 3 of 3
Regular transfusions usually begin around one year of age and continue throughout life.
Excessive number of transfusions results in tranfusional hemosiderosis; Without iron chelation, patient develops cardiac disease.
Danger in continuous tranfusion therapy:
Development of iron overload.
Development of alloimmunization (developing antibodies to transfused RBCs).
Risk of transfusion-transmitted diseases.
Bone marrow transplants may be future treatment, along with genetic engineering and new drug therapies.
Comparison of Beta Thalassemias Usually Inc Usually Inc Dec MAJOR Usually Inc Normal to Inc Dec INTERMEDIA Normal to Inc Normal to Inc Dec MINOR Normal Normal Normal SILENT CARRIER Normal Normal Normal NORMAL HGB F HGB A 2 HGB A GENOTYPE
Other Thalassemias Caused by Defects in the Beta-Cluster Genes
1. Delta Beta Thalassemia
2. Hemoglobin Lepore
3. Hereditary Persistence of Fetal Hemoglobin (HPFH)
Delta Beta Thalassemia
Group of disorders due either to a gene deletion that removes or inactivates only delta and beta genes so that only alpha and gamma chains produced.
Similar to beta thalassemia minor.
Growth and development nearly normal. Splenomegaly modest. Peripheral blood picture resembles beta thalassemia.
Rare class of delta beta thalassemia.
Caused by gene crossovers between delta locus on one chromosome and beta locus on second chromosome.
Hereditary Persistence of Fetal Hemoglobin (HPFH) 1 of 2
Rare condition characterized by continued synthesis of Hemoglobin F in adult life.
Do not have usual clinical symptoms of thalassemia.
Little significance except when combined with other forms of thalassemia or hemoglobinopathies.
If combined with sickle cell anemia, produces milder form of disease due to presence of Hb F.
Hereditary Persistence of Fetal Hemoglobin (HPFH) 2 of 2
Hb F more resistant to denaturation than Hb A. Can be demonstrated on blood smears using Kleihauer Betke stain. Cells containing Hb F stain.
Classified into two groups according to distribution of Hb F among red cells:
Pancellular HPFH - Hemoglobin F uniformly distributed throughout red cells.
Heterocellular HPFH - Hemoglobin F found in only small number of cells.
Beta Thalassemia with Hbg S
Inherit gene for Hb S from one parent and gene for Hb A with beta thalassemia from second parent.
Great variety in clinical severity. Usually depend upon severity of thalassemia inherited. Production of Hb A ranges from none produced to varying amounts. If no Hb A produced, see true sickle cell symptoms. If some Hb A produced, have lessening of sickle cell anemia symptoms.
Beta Thalassemia with Hgb C
Shows great variability in clinical and hematologic symptoms.
Symptoms directly related to which type thalassemia inherited.
Usually asymptomatic anemia
Beta Thalassemia with Hgb E
Is unusual because results in more severe disorder than homozygous E disease.
Very severe anemia developing in childhood.
Transfusion therapy required.
Alpha Thalassemia 1 of 2
Has wide range clinical expressions.
Is difficult to classify alpha thalassemias due to wide variety of possible genetic combinations.
Absence of alpha chains will result in increase of gamma chains during fetal life and excess beta chains later in life; Causes molecules like Bart's Hemoglobin ( γ 4 ) or Hemoglobin H ( β 4 ), which are stable molecules but physiologically useless.
Alpha Thalassemia 2 of 2
Predominant cause of alpha thalassemias is large number of gene deletions in the alpha-globin gene.
Are four clinical syndromes present in alpha thalassemia:
Silent Carrier State
Alpha Thalassemia Trait (Alpha Thalassemia Minor)
Hemoglobin H Disease
Bart's Hydrops Fetalis Syndrome
Silent Carrier State
Deletion of one alpha gene, leaving three functional alpha genes.
Alpha/Beta chain ratio nearly normal.
No hematologic abnormalities present.
No reliable way to diagnose silent carriers by hematologic methods; Must be done by genetic mapping.
May see borderline low MCV (78-80fL).
Alpha Thalassemia Trait (Alpha Thalassemia Minor)
Also called Alpha Thalassemia Minor.
Caused by two missing alpha genes. May be homozygous (-a/-a) or heterozygous (--/aa).
Exhibits mild microcytic, hypochromic anemia.
MCV between 70-75 fL.
May be confused with iron deficiency anemia.
Although some Bart's hemoglobin ( γ 4 ) present at birth, no Bart's hemoglobin present in adults.
Hemoglobin H Disease 1 of 2
Second most severe form alpha thalassemia.
Usually caused by presence of only one gene producing alpha chains (--/-a).
Results in accumulation of excess unpaired gamma or beta chains. Born with 10-40% Bart's hemoglobin ( γ 4 ). Gradually replaced with Hemoglobin H ( β 4 ). In adult, have about 30-50% Hb H.
γ 4 β 4
Hemoglobin H Disease 1 of 2
Live normal life; however, infections, pregnancy, exposure to oxidative drugs may trigger hemolytic crisis.
RBCs are microcytic, hypochromic with marked poikilocytosis. Numerous target cells.
Hb H vulnerable to oxidation. Gradually precipitate in vivo to form Heinz-like bodies of denatured hemoglobin. Cells been described has having "golf ball" appearance, especially when stained with brilliant cresyl blue.
Bart’s Hydrops Fetalis Syndrome
Most severe form. Incompatible with life. Have no functioning alpha chain genes (--/--).
Baby born with hydrops fetalis, which is edema and ascites caused by accumulation serous fluid in fetal tissues as result of severe anemia. Also see hepatosplenomegaly and cardiomegaly.
Predominant hemoglobin is Hemoglobin Bart, along with Hemoglobin Portland and traces of Hemoglobin H.
Hemoglobin Bart's has high oxygen affinity so cannot carry oxygen to tissues. Fetus dies in utero or shortly after birth. At birth, see severe hypochromic, microcytic anemia with numerous NRBCs.
Pregnancies dangerous to mother. Increased risk of toxemia and severe postpartum hemorrhage.
Comparison of Alpha Thalassemias 0-20% 80% (with 20% Hgb Portland) 0 Hydrops Fetalis 2-40% 25-40% Dec Hemoglobin H Disease 0 5-10% 85-95% Alpha Thalassemia Trait 0 0-2% 96-98% Silent Carrier 0 0 97-98% Normal Hb H Hb Bart Hb A Genotype
Alpha Thalassemia with Hgb S
Alpha thalassemia can occur in combination with hemoglobin S. Is fairly common combination in populations of African descent.
Patient usually asymptomatic. Have less Hb S present than those with sickle cell trait. Have increased presence of Hb F.
Laboratory Diagnosis of Thalassemia
Laboratory Diagnosis of Thalassemia
Need to start with patient's individual history and family history. Ethnic background important.
Perform physical examination:
Pallor indicating anemia.
Jaundice indicating hemolysis.
Splenomegaly due to pooling of abnormal cells.
Skeletal deformity, especially in beta thalassemia major.
CBC with Differential 1 of 2
See decrease in hemoglobin, hematocrit, mean corpuscular volume (MCV), and mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH). See normal to slightly decreased Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin Concentration (MCHC). Will see microcytic, hypochromic pattern.
Have normal or elevated RBC count with a normal red cell volume distribution (RDW).
Decrease in MCV very noticeable when compared to decrease in Hb and Hct.
CBC with Differential 2 of 2
Elevated RBC count with markedly decreased MCV differentiates thalassemia from iron deficiency anemia.
On differential, see microcytic, hypochromic RBCs (except in carrier states). See mild to moderate poikilocytosis. In more severe cases, see marked number of target cells and elliptocytes. Will see polychromasia, basophilic stippling, and NRBCs.
Usually elevated. Degree of elevation depends upon severity of thalassemia.
Have decreased osmotic fragility.
Is not very useful fact for diagnosing thalassemia. Is an inexpensive way of screening for carrier states.
Brilliant Cresyl Blue Stain
Incubation with brilliant cresyl blue stain causes Hemoglobin H to precipitate. Results in characteristic appearance of multiple discrete inclusions -golf ball appearance of RBCs. Inclusions smaller than Heinz bodies and are evenly distributed throughout cell.
Acid Elution Stain
Based on Kleihauer-Betke procedure. Acid pH will dissolve Hemoglobin A from red cells. Hemoglobin F is resistant to denaturation and remains in cell. Stain slide with eosin. Normal adult cells appear as "ghost" cells while cells with Hb F stain varying shades of pink.
Useful way to differentiate between pancellular HPFH and heterocellular HPFH.
Important role in diagnosing and differentiating various forms of thalassemias.
Can differentiate among Hb A, Hb A 2 , and Hb F, as well as detect presence of abnormal hemoglobins such as Hemoglobin Lepore, hemoglobin Bart's, or Hemoglobin Constant Spring.
Also aids in detecting combinations of thalassemia and hemoglobinopathies.
Elevation of Hb A 2 excellent way to detect heterozygote carrier of beta thalassemia. Variations in gene expression in thalassemias results in different amounts of Hb A 2 being produced.
Can also quantitate levels of Hb F.
Routine Chemistry Tests
Indirect bilirubin elevated in thalassemia major and intermedia.
Assessment of iron status, total iron binding capacity, and ferritin level important in differentiating thalassemia from iron deficiency anemia.
Other Special Procedures
Globin Chain Testing - determines ratio of globin chains being produced.
DNA Analysis - Determine specific defect at molecular DNA level.
Differential Diagnosis of Microcytic, Hypochromic Anemias Inc Norm Norm Norm Norm Lead Poisoning Dec Inc Norm Inc Inc Sideroblastic Anemia Inc Inc Dec Dec Norm Anemia of Chronic Disease Norm Norm Norm Norm Norm Hgb E Disease Norm Norm Norm Norm Norm Beta Thal Norm Norm Norm Norm Norm Alpha Thal Inc Dec Inc Dec Inc Iron Deficiency FEP Serum Ferritin TIBC Serum Iron RDW