Significant advances have been made in diagnosis and clinical management of inherited red cell membrane disorders that result in hemolytic anemia. Membrane structural defects lead to hereditary spherocytosis (HS) and hereditary elliptocytosis (HE), whereas altered membrane transport function accounts for hereditary xerocytosis (HX) and hereditary overhydrated stomatocytosis (OHS). The degrees of membrane loss and resultant increases in cell sphericity determine the severity of anemia in HS and HE, and splenectomy leads to amelioration of anemia by increasing the circulatory red cell life span. Alterations in cell volume as a result of disordered membrane cation permeability account for reduced life span red cells in HX and OHS. Importantly, splenectomy is not beneficial in these 2 membrane transport disorders and is not recommended because it is ineffective and may lead to an increased risk of life-threatening thrombosis. Rational approaches are now available for the diagnosis and management of these inherited red cell disorders, and these will be discussed in this review.

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