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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:

Scwartz RS. Autoimmune and intravascular hemolytic anemias. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 164.




Review Date: 11/23/2008
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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