Once suspected, the diagnosis of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) is straightforward when flow cytometric analysis of the peripheral blood reveals a population of glycosyl phosphatidylinositol anchor protein-deficient cells. But PNH is clinically heterogeneous, with some patients having a disease process characterized by florid intravascular, complement-mediated hemolysis, whereas in others, bone marrow failure dominates the clinical picture with modest or even no evidence of hemolysis observed. The clinical heterogeneity is due to the close, though incompletely understood, relationship between PNH and immune-mediated bone marrow failure, and that PNH is an acquired, nonmalignant clonal disease of the hematopoietic stem cells. Bone marrow failure complicates management of PNH because compromised erythropoiesis contributes, to a greater or lesser degree, to the anemia; in addition, the extent to which the mutant stem cell clone expands in an individual patient determines the magnitude of the hemolytic component of the disease. An understanding of the unique pathobiology of PNH in relationship both to complement physiology and immune-mediated bone marrow failure provides the basis for a systematic approach to management.
- paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH)