Successful combination therapy--flunarizine, pentoxifylline, and cholestyramine--for spur cell anemia

Int J Hematol. 2001 Apr;73(3):351-5. doi: 10.1007/BF02981961.


Spur cell anemia, a hemolytic anemia observed in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis, is characterized by unusual erythrocyte morphology and an increased ratio of free cholesterol to phospholipid in the erythrocyte membrane. The prognosis of spur cell anemia is usually extremely poor, however, we describe here a patient with spur cell anemia who was successfully treated with combination therapy consisting of flunarizine, pentoxifylline, and cholestyramine. Initial therapy with flunarizine alone for 6 weeks did not significantly decrease the number of spur cells on peripheral blood smears. So pentoxifylline was added to the regimen. The patient recovered from the anemia, showed remarkable improvement with regard to the hyperbilirubinemia, and the changes were accompanied by a significant decrease in the number of spur cells in peripheral blood smears. To correct the hypercholesterolemia, cholestyramine was added to the regimen, which resulted in a reduction in the serum level of free cholesterol and an increase in the molar ratio of free cholesterol to phospholipid in erythrocyte membrane. However, 6 months later a skin eruption developed that was considered an adverse reaction to the drugs, so the flunarizine and pentoxifylline were discontinued. With cholestyramine therapy alone, the remission of spur cell anemia was maintained for more than 11 months. These observations suggest that non-invasive combination therapy with flunarizine, pentoxifylline, and cholestyramine is effective and valuable in the treatment of patients with spur cell anemia.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anemia, Hemolytic / blood
  • Anemia, Hemolytic / drug therapy*
  • Anemia, Hemolytic / etiology
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Calcium / blood
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / adverse effects
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / therapeutic use*
  • Chelating Agents / adverse effects
  • Chelating Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Chenodeoxycholic Acid / blood
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cholestyramine Resin / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Eruptions / etiology
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / chemistry
  • Flunarizine / adverse effects
  • Flunarizine / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Hyperbilirubinemia / drug therapy
  • Hyperbilirubinemia / etiology
  • Hypercholesterolemia / drug therapy
  • Hypercholesterolemia / etiology
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Alcoholic / complications*
  • Male
  • Membrane Lipids / blood
  • Pentoxifylline / adverse effects
  • Pentoxifylline / therapeutic use*
  • Phospholipids / blood


  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Chelating Agents
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Phospholipids
  • Chenodeoxycholic Acid
  • Cholestyramine Resin
  • Cholesterol
  • Flunarizine
  • Pentoxifylline
  • Calcium