Congenital spherocytic anemia

Congenital spherocytic anemia


Congenital spherocytic anemia is a disorder of the surface layer (membrane) of red blood cells. It leads to red blood cells that are shaped like spheres, and premature breakdown of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia).

Alternative Names

Hereditary spherocytosis; Spherocytosis


This disorder is caused by a defective gene. The defect results in an abnormal red blood cell membrane. The affected cells have a smaller surface area for their volume than normal red blood cells, and can break open easily. Having a family history of spherocytosis increases the risk for this disorder.

The anemia

This disorder is most common in people of northern European descent, but it has been found in all races. Infants may have yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice) and pale coloring (pallor). In most cases, the spleen is enlarged. After the spleen is removed, the life span of the red blood cell returns to normal.


  • Jaundice
  • Pallor
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Irritability in children

Exams and Tests

  • Physical exam reveals enlarged spleen
  • Reticulocyte count is elevated
  • Blood smear shows spherocytes
  • Complete blood count shows anemia
  • Osmotic fragility and incubated fragility test are abnormal
  • Coombs' test - direct is negative
  • Coombs' test - indirect is negative
  • Bilirubin is elevated
  • LDH is elevated


Surgery to remove the spleen (splenectomy) cures the anemia of spherocytosis. Although the abnormal cell defect continues, the red blood cell life span returns to normal.

Families with a history of spherocytosis should have their children screened for this disorder. In mild cases discovered in adults, splenectomy may not be necessary.

Children should wait until age 5 to have splenectomy because of the infection risk. Children are given a pneumonia vaccine (pneumococcal immunization) before the surgery, and also may receive folic acid supplements.

Outlook (Prognosis)

This outcome is usually good with treatment.

Possible Complications

  • Development of gallstones from the pigment that comes from the destroyed red blood cells
  • Much lower red blood cell production (aplastic crises) caused by a viral infection

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider for an appointment if your symptoms get worse, do not improve with treatment, or if you develop new symptoms.


This is an inherited disorder and may not be preventable. Being aware of your risk, such as a family history of the disorder, may help you get diagnosed and treated early.

Congenital spherocytic anemia
Chronic granulocytic leukemia
Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma
Lyme disease - early disseminated
Cardiomyopathy - ischemic
Congenital afibrinogenemia

Copyright by 2006-2023. All rights reserved