Paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria

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Paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria
Classification and external resources
Specialty hematology
ICD-10 D59.6
ICD-9-CM 283.2
DiseasesDB 9679
eMedicine ped/512
MeSH D006457

Paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria (PCH), also known as Donath-Landsteiner syndrome, is a disease of humans that is characterized by the sudden presence of hemoglobin in the urine (called hemoglobinuria), typically after exposure to cold temperatures. It carries the name of the Austrian internists Julius Donath (1870–1950) and Karl Landsteiner (1868–1943) who described it in 1904; it was the first condition recognized as an autoimmune disease.[1]


People with PCH, a polyclonal IgG anti-P autoantibody binds to red blood cell surface antigens in the cold. This can occur in a susceptible individual as blood passes through cold extremities in cold weather. When the blood returns to the warmer central circulation, the red blood cells are lysed with complement, causing intravascular hemolysis. Hemoglobinuria and anemia can then occur. The anemia may be mild or severe.


PCH is a rare autoimmune haemolytic anaemia that can occur following an infection, when a microorganism triggers the formation of antibodies that cross-react with the P antigen on the red blood cell membrane (see article on the P antigen system). Viral infections that can cause PCH include measles, mumps, influenza, adenovirus, chickenpox, cytomegalovirus, and Epstein-Barr virus. Bacterial infections that can cause PCH include syphilis, Haemophilus influenzae and Mycoplasma pneumoniae. PCH can also be a side effect of some vaccinations. Chronic idiopathic (of unknown cause) PCH also occurs, but it is rare.

Risk factors[edit]

People with PCH are sometimes advised to avoid exposure to cold temperatures.[2] If anemia is severe, blood transfusion may be needed. Careful compatibility testing by the blood bank is necessary because autoantibodies may interfere with blood typing. Prednisone may be used in individuals with PCH and severe anemia.

Treatment and prognosis[edit]

Acute PCH tends to be transient and self-limited,[3] particularly in children. Chronic PCH associated with syphilis resolves after the syphilis is treated with appropriate antibiotics. Chronic idiopathic PCH is usually mild.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Moticka, Edward J. (2013). Historical perspective on evidence-based immunology. Elsevier Science Publishing. p. 300. ISBN 9780123983817. 
  2. ^ Sokol RJ, Booker DJ, Stamps R (1999). "Erythropoiesis: Paroxysmal Cold Haemoglobinuria: A Clinico-Pathological Study of Patients with a Positive Donath-Landsteiner Test". Hematology. 4 (2): 137–164. PMID 11399560. 
  3. ^ Ogose T, Wakata Y, Kaneko M, Shinahara K, Takechi T, Kotani H (October 2007). "A case of recurrent paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria with the different temperature thresholds of Donath-Landsteiner antibodies". J. Pediatr. Hematol. Oncol. 29 (10): 716–9. doi:10.1097/MPH.0b013e31814d6845. PMID 17921855.