Neutropenia in children: acquired neutropenia




neutropenia, children, immunodeficiency, autoimmune neutropenia


Neutropenia is defined as a reduction in the absolute neutrophil count (ANC) below 1,500 cells/mcl in the blood. Neutropenia is a common laboratory finding in children. It is important to distinguish transient and benign causes from severe congenital neutropenia. Neutropenia can be classified in asymptomatic (mild), moderate, and severe form, the susceptibility to infection depending on ANC. Neutropenia can be either acquired or congenital. Infection, drugs, and immune disorders are the most common acquired causes while congenital causes are rare and confined mostly to infants and children.

Transient neutropenia often accompanies viral infections in children, manifested in the period of acute viremia. Young children are characterized by autoimmune neutropenia (AIN), which has a benign course and a favorable prognosis. Autoimmune neutropenia is characterized by a decrease in the number of neutrophils as a result of the destruction of neutrophils in the peripheral blood by antineutrophil antibodies. The duration of AIN is usually 3–5 years. This is a self-limiting disease that in most cases does not require treatment. Despite the benign course, serious infectious complications can occur.

Treatment of myeloid growth factors should be started after a previous bone marrow aspiration biopsy in children with severe infections or requiring surgical intervention. High doses of intravenous immunoglobulin and corticosteroids may be effective in treating AIN in patients with life-threating infections. The danger to the patient depends on the etiology, ANC and bone marrow status. The risk of infections is significantly increased in patients with ACN less than 500 cells/μ1. The most common loci of infections include the oral mucosa, skin, perirectal area, perineum. Oral ulcers and gingivitis are characteristic signs of clinically significant neutropenia, requiring the exclusion of its congenital causes. Severe infections in patients with neutropenia are caused by pyogenic or intestinal bacteria and Candida species.

It is important to distinguish between transient or benign causes and severe congenital neutropenia or neutropenia associated with serious haematological or systemic disease. Clarification of the cause of neutropenia is important for determining management and prognosis.

No conflict of interest was declared by the author.


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