Abstract. Introduction. Autoimmune hemolytic anemia in children younger than 2 years of age is usually characterized by a severe course, with a mortality rate of approximately 10%. The prolonged immunosuppression following specific treatment may be associated with a high risk of developing severe infections. Recently, the use of monoclonal antibodies (rituximab) has allowed sustained remissions to be obtained in the majority of pediatric patients with refractory autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Case presentation. We describe the case of an 8-month-old Caucasian girl affected by a severe form of autoimmune hemolytic anemia, which required continuous steroid treatment for 16 months. Thereafter, she received 4 weekly doses of rituximab (375mg/m2/dose) associated with steroid therapy, which was then tapered over the subsequent 2 weeks. One month after the last dose of rrituximab, she presented with recurrence of severe hemolysis and received two more doses of rrituximab. The patient remained in clinical remission for 7 months, before presenting with a further relapse. An alternative heavy immunosuppressive therapy was administered combining cyclophosphamide 10mg/kg/day for 10 days with methylprednisolone 40mg/kg/day for 5 days, which was then tapered down over 3 weeks. While still on steroid therapy, the patient developed an interstitial pneumonia with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, which required immediate admission to the intensive care unit where extracorporeal membrane oxygenation therapy was administered continuously for 37 days. At 16-month follow-up, the patient is alive and in good clinical condition, with no organ dysfunction, free from any immunosuppressive treatment and with a normal Hb level. Conclusions. This case shows that aggressive combined immunosuppressive therapy may lead to a sustained complete remission in children with refractory autoimmune hemolytic anemia. However, the severe life-threatening complication presented by our patient indicates that strict clinical monitoring must be vigilantly performed, that antimicrobial prophylaxis should always be considered and that experienced medical and nursing staff must be available, to deliver highly specialized supportive salvage therapies, if necessary, during intensive care monitoring. Â© 2009 licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
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