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Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2008 Jun;50(6):1227-35.

Highly elevated ferritin levels and the diagnosis of hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a potentially lethal condition characterized by a pathologic inflammation. The diagnostic criteria for HLH include fever, splenomegaly, cytopenias, hypertriglyceridemia, hypofibrinogenemia, abnormal natural killer cell (NK cell) functional assay, elevated soluble IL-2Ralpha level, and elevated ferritin level (>500 microg/L). Institution of timely therapy in these critically ill patients may be delayed by difficulties establishing the diagnosis. NK cell functional assay and soluble IL-2Ralpha level may require send-out to a specialized lab. However, ferritin level is available on a same-day basis at most institutions. In this study, we examined the utility of quantitative ferritin levels in diagnosing HLH.

PROCEDURE:

All patients with ferritin values >500 microg/L obtained at Texas Children's Hospital between January 10, 2003 and January 10, 2005 were identified. Patient charts were reviewed for ferritin levels and hospital course.

RESULTS:

During the study interval, 330 patients had ferritin levels >500 microg/L. Ten of the 330 patients were diagnosed with HLH. A ferritin level over 10,000 microg/L was 90% sensitive and 96% specific for HLH. Another diagnostic category with significantly elevated ferritin level was illness of unknown cause (n = 10), and only two of these patients were fully evaluated for HLH.

CONCLUSIONS:

Ferritin levels above 10,000 microg/L appear to be specific and sensitive for HLH. In patients without a significant medical history and a new onset of febrile illness with highly elevated ferritin levels, the diagnosis of HLH should be evaluated.

(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

PMID:
18085676
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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