How I manage hypoxia in adults with hemoglobinopathies and hemolytic disorders

Evans M. Machogu and Roberto F. Machado


Hemoglobinopathies are caused by genetic mutations that result in abnormal hemoglobin molecules that result in hemolytic anemia. Chronic complications involving the lung parenchyma, vasculature and cardiac function in hemoglobinopathies result in impaired gas exchange resulting in tissue hypoxia. Hypoxia is defined as the deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues of the body and is prevalent in patients with hemoglobinopathies and its cause is often multifactorial. Chronic hypoxia in hemoglobinopathies is often a sign of disease severity and is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Therefore, a thorough understanding of the pathophysiology of hypoxia in these disease processes is important in order to appropriately treat the underlying cause and prevent complications. In this article, we discuss management of hypoxia based on three different cases; sickle cell disease, beta-thalassemia and hereditary spherocytosis. These cases are used to review the current understanding of the disease pathophysiology, demonstrate the importance of a thorough clinical history and physical examination, explore diagnostic pathways and review the current management.

  • Submitted March 6, 2018.
  • Accepted June 13, 2018.