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Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2017 Jun;114:1-12. doi: 10.1016/j.critrevonc.2017.03.023. Epub 2017 Mar 23.

Similar but not the same: Differential diagnosis of HLH and sepsis.

Author information

1
Department of Hematology, Oncology and Internal Diseases, Medical University of Warsaw, ul. Banacha 1a, 02-097 Warsaw, Poland. Electronic address: r.machowicz@wp.pl.
2
Department of Paediatric Haematology and Oncology, University Medical Centre Hamburg Eppendorf, Martinistrasse 52, 20246 Hamburg, Germany.
3
Department of Hematology, Oncology and Internal Diseases, Medical University of Warsaw, ul. Banacha 1a, 02-097 Warsaw, Poland.

Abstract

Differential diagnosis of hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH; hemophagocytic syndrome) and sepsis is critically important because the life-saving aggressive immunosuppressive treatment, required in the effective HLH therapy, is absent in sepsis guidelines. Moreover, HLH may be complicated by sepsis. Hyperinflammation, present in both states, gives an overlapping clinical picture including fever and performance status deterioration. The aim of this review is to provide aid in this challenging diagnostic process. Analysis of clinical features and laboratory results in multiple groups of patients (both adult and pediatric) with either HLH or sepsis allows to propose criteria differentiating these two conditions. The diagnosis of HLH is supported by hyperferritinemia, splenomegaly, marked cytopenias, hypofibrinogenemia, low CRP, characteristic cytokine profile and, only in adults, hypertriglyceridemia. In the presence of these parameters (especially the most characteristic hyperferritinemia), the other HLH criteria should be assessed. Genetic analyses can reveal familial HLH. Hemophagocytosis is neither specific nor sensitive for HLH.

KEYWORDS:

HLH; Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis; Hemophagocytic syndrome; Hyperferritinemia; Inflammation; MAS; Macrophage activation syndrome; Sepsis

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