Hematological manifestations of copper deficiency: a retrospective review

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Copper deficiency is an established cause of hematological abnormalities but is frequently misdiagnosed. Copper deficiency can present as a combination of hematological and neurological abnormalities and it may masquerade as a myelodysplastic syndrome. We reviewed the records of patients with hypocupremia and hematologic abnormalities identified between 1970 and 2005. Patients with hypocupremia unrelated to copper deficiency (e.g. Wilson's disease) were excluded. Forty patients with copper deficiency and hematological abnormalities were identified. Ten patients (25%) had undergone bariatric (weight reduction) surgery and an additional 14 patients (35%) had undergone surgery on the gastrointestinal tract, most commonly gastric resection. In 12 cases, no cause for copper deficiency was identified. Anemia and neutropenia were the most common hematologic abnormalities identified and the majority of the patients also had neurologic findings, most commonly due to myeloneuropathy. Abnormalities observed on bone marrow examination including vacuoles in myeloid precursors, iron-containing plasma cells, a decrease in granulocyte precursors and ring sideroblasts may be valuable clues to the diagnosis. Copper deficiency is an uncommon but very treatable cause of hematologic abnormalities.

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