Autoimmune hemolytic anemia, autoimmune neutropenia and aplastic anemia in the elderly


      • Autoimmune cytopenias diagnosis in the elderly is challenged by several comorbidities.
      • AIHA related complications, particularly thrombosis, are more frequent in the elderly.
      • AA survival and response to standard therapy are age related.
      • Treatment has to be weighed on comorbidities and supportive therapy must be maximal.
      • Bone marrow evaluation may detect underlying disease or neoplastic evolution.


      The physiology of the immune system involves morphologic and functional changes occurring along ageing, with a decrease in immune response and an increase in autoimmune phenomena, even in the absence of overt disese. Autoimmune cytopenias, namely autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), chronic idiopathic neutropenia (CIN) and aplastic anemia (AA), show different epidemiologic predilection, but are increasingly diagnosed in the elderly, where complications and comorbidities are more frequent. A systematic review of recent literature, shows that comorbidities as well as underlying deficiencies, medications, neoplasms, and, pathophysiologic chronic organ failures, frequently challenge the differential diagnosis in this setting and should always be evaluated and excluded. Complications, particularly infections and thrombosis for AIHA, and bleeding for AA, should be monitored and promptly treated. Treatment choice should be carefully weighed on the individual general condition and comorbidities, granted that intense primary care and support (including evidence-based transfusion policies) are provided. Finally, bone marrow histology is highly advisable in the elderly, both at diagnosis to detect underlying conditions, and along the follow-up to monitor possible bone marrow failure or neoplastic evolution.


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