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Patients with an extraordinarily elevated serum ferritin: think of haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis


Schweizer, M; Goede, J S; Briner, V (2015). Patients with an extraordinarily elevated serum ferritin: think of haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis. Swiss Medical Weekly, 145:w14152.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: We retrospectively analysed charts of patients with blood ferritin level >5000 µg/l. The aim of the study was to look for the likelihood of haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) in these patients.
METHODS: Forty-two patients demonstrated hyperferritinaemia and could be evaluated. The diagnosis of HLH was based on a recently published HScore and an earlier diagnostic algorithm.
RESULTS: According to the algorithm, 20 patients fulfilled the criteria for a diagnosis of HLH. However, patients with Still's disease have macrophage activation and, in this context, a rise in ferritin without having HLH. Fourteen patients with carcinoma, haematological malignancies or infection and hyperferritinaemia remained. Signs and symptoms were: systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS 100%), fever (95%), cytopenia of ≥2 lines (70%), immunosuppression (61.5%), splenomegaly (50%), elevated liver enzymes (45%), lymphadenopathy (35%), hepatomegaly (30%). These are nonspecific parameters. Therefore HLH may be overdiagnosed. Using the HScore, only 10 patients had >80% probability of having HLH. Patients demonstrating cytopenia of ≥2 cell lines had a >60% mortality rate. Time to death was 13.8 days; death was most often due to multiorgan failure.
CONCLUSION: HScore reflects a higher specificity than the algorithm for diagnosing HLH. The discrepancy may indicate the difficulty that a specific marker still is missing. Hyperferritinaemia was strongly associated with HLH in patients with haematological or oncological malignancies. HLH may be underdiagnosed because the majority of these patients suffer from a severe underlying disease, which easily might suggest a flare or infection. In this population, hyperferritinaemia and SIRS should rise suspicion because mortality in HLH is high.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: We retrospectively analysed charts of patients with blood ferritin level >5000 µg/l. The aim of the study was to look for the likelihood of haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) in these patients.
METHODS: Forty-two patients demonstrated hyperferritinaemia and could be evaluated. The diagnosis of HLH was based on a recently published HScore and an earlier diagnostic algorithm.
RESULTS: According to the algorithm, 20 patients fulfilled the criteria for a diagnosis of HLH. However, patients with Still's disease have macrophage activation and, in this context, a rise in ferritin without having HLH. Fourteen patients with carcinoma, haematological malignancies or infection and hyperferritinaemia remained. Signs and symptoms were: systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS 100%), fever (95%), cytopenia of ≥2 lines (70%), immunosuppression (61.5%), splenomegaly (50%), elevated liver enzymes (45%), lymphadenopathy (35%), hepatomegaly (30%). These are nonspecific parameters. Therefore HLH may be overdiagnosed. Using the HScore, only 10 patients had >80% probability of having HLH. Patients demonstrating cytopenia of ≥2 cell lines had a >60% mortality rate. Time to death was 13.8 days; death was most often due to multiorgan failure.
CONCLUSION: HScore reflects a higher specificity than the algorithm for diagnosing HLH. The discrepancy may indicate the difficulty that a specific marker still is missing. Hyperferritinaemia was strongly associated with HLH in patients with haematological or oncological malignancies. HLH may be underdiagnosed because the majority of these patients suffer from a severe underlying disease, which easily might suggest a flare or infection. In this population, hyperferritinaemia and SIRS should rise suspicion because mortality in HLH is high.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Hematology
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:22 June 2015
Deposited On:09 Feb 2016 11:41
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 20:00
Publisher:EMH Swiss Medical Publishers
ISSN:0036-7672
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.4414/smw.2015.14152

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