Modern treatment of thalassaemia intermedia

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The term thalassaemia intermedia includes a large spectrum of conditions of varying severity. Blood transfusion and chelation are necessary in some patients, especially during childhood, in order to promote growth and prevent bone deformities. Alloimunisation, however, is frequent and can be difficult to control. Splenectomy is usually needed at some time because of hypersplenism and mechanical encumbrance. Reactivation of HbF is possible only in a small proportion of patients: hydroxycarbamide (also known as hydroxyurea) appears to be the most effective drug for this purpose. Antioxidant agents, although theoretically useful, do not improve haemoglobin levels. Stem cell transplantation is an option limited to the severe forms. Gene therapy and other molecular approaches are subjects of intense study. Numerous complications, including pulmonary hypertension, thrombotic events, pseudoxanthoma elasticum and osteoporosis, have been described and all contribute to complicate the treatment of a disease that represents a significant burden for the patients and their families.

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