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Treatment of autoimmune hemolytic anemias.

Treatment of autoimmune hemolytic anemias varies depending on whether the patient has autoimmune hemolytic anemia of warm antibody type, cold agglutinin syndrome, paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria, or autoimmune hemolytic anemia secondary to an underlying disorder. Initial therapy for warm antibody autoimmune hemolytic anemia should be corticosteroids, such as prednisone at conventional doses of 1 to 1.5 mg/kg/d orally. Criteria must be established to determine whether the therapeutic response is adequate, because long-term therapy may lead to significant detrimental side effects. Splenectomy has the advantage over therapeutic options in that it has the potential for complete and long-term remission. The major adverse effect is the syndrome of overwhelming postsplenectomy infection. Other therapeutic options, which are less likely to have long-term benefit, are immunosuppressive drugs, danazol, intravenous immunoglobulin, and plasma exchange. Therapy of cold agglutinin syndrome often is unsatisfactory. All patients should avoid exposure to cold, and if additional therapy is necessary, the therapies used for warm antibody autoimmune hemolytic anemia may be tried with less likelihood of response. Paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria requires aggressive supportive therapy, generally supplemented by corticosteroids. Hemolysis usually terminates spontaneously. Patients with secondary autoimmune hemolytic anemia may be treated similarly to those with idiopathic autoimmune hemolytic anemia, and additional therapy for the underlying disorder also may result in remission of the hemolysis.

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