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A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M.; 2013.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Hemolysis

Last reviewed: February 24, 2014.

Hemolysis is the breakdown of red blood cells.

See also: Hemolytic anemia

Information

Red blood cells normally live for 110 to 120 days. After that, they naturally break down and are usually removed from the circulation by the spleen.

Some diseases and processes cause red blood cells to break down too soon. This requires the bone marrow to make more red blood cells than normal. The balance between red blood cell breakdown and production determines how low the red blood cell count becomes.

Conditions that can cause hemolysis include:

  • Immune reactions
  • Infections
  • Medications
  • Toxins and poisons
  • Treatments such as hemodialysis or the use of the heart-lung bypass machine

References

  1. Schwartz RS. Autoimmune and intravascular hemolytic anemias. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 163.
  2. 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.
  3. Gallagher PG, Jarolim P. Red blood cell membrane disorders. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Shattil SS, et al., eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 46.
  4. Powers A, Silberstein LE. Autoimmune hemolytic anemia. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Shattil SS, et al., eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 47.
  5. Schrier S, 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: 2/24/2014.

Reviewed by: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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  • Oral immunoglobulin for preventing necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm and low birth weight neonatesOral immunoglobulin for preventing necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm and low birth weight neonates
    Immunoglobulin given orally for preventing emergency intestinal problems (necrotizing enterocolitis) in premature and low birth weight newborn infants. Destructive inflammation of the intestine (necrotizing enterocolitis, NEC) is caused by gas‐producing bacteria that ferment milk. It is a potential problem for newborn preterm and low birth weight (less than 2500 grams) infants. Even after leaving hospital, affected infants may need frequent and prolonged hospitalisation because of continuing nutritional problems. This makes it difficult for parents both emotionally and financially. Immunoglobulins are proteins found in the blood that give the body immunity to disease. Immunoglobulins (types IgA and IgG) taken orally may protect susceptible infants from developing necrotizing enterocolitis. The review authors searched the medical literature and found three randomised controlled trials (with 2095 newborn infants). Treatment was started either in the first twenty‐four hours following birth (two small studies) or following commencement of oral feeding (enteral) (one large well‐controlled study). In this large study, infants generally received breast milk, whereas they received formula milk in the other two studies. Giving immunoglobulin (IgG or an IgG and IgA combination) did not reduce the incidence of NEC, need for surgery related to NEC, or death from NEC, either during or after the study period. Immunoglobulins could possibly cause breakdown of red blood cells (haemolysis), but no clinically important haemolysis was apparent. There were no other reported side effects.
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