Haptoglobin testing is used mainly to help diagnose and monitor haemolytic anaemia and to distinguish it from anaemia due to other causes; however, it cannot be used to diagnose the cause of the haemolysis.
If the haptoglobin is normal and the reticulocyte is increased, then RBC destruction may be occurring in organs such as the spleen and liver (called “extravascular” rather than “intravascular” haemolysis). Because the freed haemoglobin is not released into the bloodstream, the haptoglobin is not consumed and so is normal.
If the haptoglobin levels are normal and the reticulocyte count is not increased, then it is likely that the anaemia present is not due to RBC breakdown.
If haptoglobin levels are low without any signs of haemolytic anaemia, then it is possible that the liver is not producing adequate amounts of haptoglobin.
Haptoglobin is an “acute-phase” protein; this means that it will be increased in many inflammatory diseases, such as ulcerative colitis, acute rheumatic disease,heart attack, and severe infection. This can complicate the interpretation of the haptoglobin results. Haptoglobin testing is not used to help diagnose or monitor these conditions.
Drugs that can increase haptoglobin levels include androgens and corticosteroids such as prednisolone. Drugs that can decrease haptoglobin concentrations include isoniazid, quinidine, streptomycin, and birth control pills.
This article was last reviewed on 18 February 2013. | This article was last modified on 13 October 2015.
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