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Hemolysis

Definition

Hemolysis is the breakdown of red blood cells.

See also: Hemolytic anemia

Information

Red blood cells normally live for 110 - 120 days. After that, they naturally break down and are usually removed from the circulation by the spleen.

Some diseases and processes cause red blood cells to break down too soon. This requires the bone marrow to make more red blood cells than normal. The balance between red blood cell breakdown and production determines how low the red blood cell count becomes.

Conditions that can cause hemolysis include:

  • Immune reactions
  • Infections
  • Medications
  • Toxins and poisons
  • Treatments such as hemodialysis or the use of the heart-lung bypass machine

References

Schwartz RS. Autoimmune and intravascular hemolytic anemias In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 163.

Gallagher PG. Hemolytic anemias:  red cell membrane and metabolic defects In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 164.

Gallagher PG, Jarolim P. Red blood cell membrane disorders. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Shattil SS, et al., eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 46.

Powers A, Silberstein LE. Autoimmune hemolytic anemia. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Shattil SS, et al., eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 47.

Schrier S, Price EA. Extrinsic nonimmune hemolytic anemias. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Shattil SS, et al., eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 48.


Review Date: 2/8/2012
Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Palm Beach Cancer Institute, West Palm Beach, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network; Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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