Current Approaches for the Treatment of Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia

Arch Immunol Ther Exp (Warsz). 2013 Oct;61(5):385-95. doi: 10.1007/s00005-013-0232-3. Epub 2013 May 21.


Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) is an infrequent group of diseases defined by autoantibody mediated red blood cell destruction. Correct diagnosis and classification of this condition are essential to provide appropriate treatment. AIHA is divided into warm and cold types according to the characteristics of the autoantibody involved and by the presence of an underlying or associated disorder into primary and secondary AIHA. Due to its low frequency, treatment for AIHA is largely based on small prospective trials, case series, and empirical observations. This review describes in detail the different treatment approaches for autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Warm antibody type AIHA should be treated with steroids, to which most patients respond, although relapse can occur and maintenance doses are frequently required. Splenectomy is an effective second line treatment and can provide long-term remission without medication. Rituximab is a useful alternative for steroid refractory patients, those requiring high maintenance doses and unfavorable candidates for surgery. Promising therapeutic modifications with this monoclonal antibody are emerging including drug combinations, lower doses, and long-term use. Primary cold agglutinin disease has been recognized as having a lymphoproliferative monoclonal origin. It is unresponsive to both steroids and splenectomy. Rituximab is currently the best therapeutic alternative for this condition, and several treatment regimens are available with variable responses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Anemia, Hemolytic, Autoimmune / drug therapy
  • Anemia, Hemolytic, Autoimmune / surgery
  • Anemia, Hemolytic, Autoimmune / therapy*
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression / methods*
  • Immunosuppression / trends
  • Recurrence
  • Rituximab
  • Splenectomy


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Rituximab