Introduction: In hereditary spherocytosis, erythropoiesis has been described as 'sluggish' during the first months of life. The lack of appropriate erythropoietic response to compensate for increased red cell destruction necessitates blood transfusions in 70-80% of hereditary spherocytosis-affected infants during their first year of life. After this period, less than 30% require regular transfusion support. This transient requirement for transfusion led us to wonder whether anemic hereditary spherocytosis infants, like anemic premature infants, could benefit from recombinant erythropoietin therapy (rHu-Epo).
Material and methods: In 16 hereditary spherocytosis infants (age range 16-119 days) with severe anemia, a compassionate open preliminary study was performed. rHu-Epo treatment (1000 IU/kg/week) was instituted together with iron supplementation. Hemoglobin values and reticulocyte counts were repeatedly assessed.
Results: In 13 out of 16 infants, prompt increases in reticulocyte counts were noted after the first week of treatment with 1000 IU/kg/week of rHu-Epo. During treatment with Epo these infants maintained clinically acceptable levels of hemoglobin and did not require blood transfusions. As the infants grew and began to mount an adequate erythropoietic response, the rHu-Epo dose could be tapered and the treatment could be discontinued before the age of nine months.
Conclusion: Epo treatment in most hereditary spherocytosis infants appears to be effective in the management of anemia and could serve as a valuable alternative to packed RBC transfusions.