Abstract

Copper deficiency has long been recognized as cause of hematopoietic dysfunction, and diagnosis is straightforward if it is pursued. Over a three year period, we diagnosed copper deficiency in seven pts referred to our university-based hematology and BMT outpatient clinics for evaluation and treatment of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) or neutropenia/anemia. This represents approximately 3% of new outpatient referrals carrying an ICD-9 code corresponding to MDS or neutropenia. Patient characteristics are shown in Table 1. Three of the seven pts carried a presumptive diagnosis of MDS, and one had received several months of decitabine therapy. Two patients were actually referred for consideration of stem cell transplantation; the others were referred for evaluation of cytopenias. Six of the seven patients had been evaluated by a hematologist prior to referral. Only 3 of 7 pts in our series had recognized risk factors for copper deficiency such as prior gastric bypass or other GI dysfunction; postulated risk factors in the other pts are included in Table1. All pts in our series were anemic and leukopenic, with absolute neutropenia at presentation. In contrast, platelet counts were normal or elevated in all pts, consistent with most previous reports. Five of the seven pts in our series had neuropathy or myelopathy of variable severity. The hematologic abnormalities responded rapidly and completely to oral and/or IV copper replacement in all pts, although neurologic recovery was slow and incomplete.

Conclusions: Our experience indicates that copper deficiency is a relatively common cause of neutropenia and anemia, and the consequences of missing the diagnosis may be substantial, including performance of unnecessary transfusion, chemotherapy, and even stem cell transplantation. Normal or elevated platelet counts and concomitant neuropathy or myelopathy are important clues to the diagnosis. Furthermore, copper deficiency must be considered even in pts without obvious GI absorption abnormalities. Serum copper and ceruloplasmin assays should be incorporated into the routine evaluation of most pts with cytopenias and suspected MDS.

Age/gender Ref. diagnosis Risk factor Associated symptoms Serum copper (80–155 mcg/dl) Ceruloplasmin (21–53 mg/dl 
53F MDS–RAEB unknown Severe sensory-motor neuropathy 29 7 
43F MDS–RA Excess carbonated soda intake? Severe sensory-motor neuropathy 2 <2 
55F Anemia, neutropenia Gastricbypass sensory-motor neuropathy 4 3 
45F Possible MDS Gastricbypass None 4 3 
66F Anemia, neutropenia Excess tea intake? Bone pain 2 Link 
56F Anemia, neutropenia Partial gastrectomy Severe sensory-motor neuropathy 2 <2 
36F Anemia, neutropenia Tetrathiomolybdate exposure (lubricants) Moderate sensory-motor neuropathy 1 2 
Age/gender Ref. diagnosis Risk factor Associated symptoms Serum copper (80–155 mcg/dl) Ceruloplasmin (21–53 mg/dl 
53F MDS–RAEB unknown Severe sensory-motor neuropathy 29 7 
43F MDS–RA Excess carbonated soda intake? Severe sensory-motor neuropathy 2 <2 
55F Anemia, neutropenia Gastricbypass sensory-motor neuropathy 4 3 
45F Possible MDS Gastricbypass None 4 3 
66F Anemia, neutropenia Excess tea intake? Bone pain 2 Link 
56F Anemia, neutropenia Partial gastrectomy Severe sensory-motor neuropathy 2 <2 
36F Anemia, neutropenia Tetrathiomolybdate exposure (lubricants) Moderate sensory-motor neuropathy 1 2 

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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