Cyanotic congenital heart disease (CCHD) with symptomatic erythrocytosis.J Gen Intern Med. 2007 Dec; 22(12):1775-7.JG
Secondary erythrocytosis of cyanotic congenital heart disease (CCHD) is pathologically different from primary erythrocytosis of polycythemia vera (PV). An association between elevated hematocrit and thrombosis has been established in PV patients, and treatment guidelines recommend maintaining hematocrit <45%. Although an association between elevated hematocrit and thrombosis has not been established in CCHD and secondary erythrocytosis, the current clinical practice is to phlebotomize these patients to hematocrit <65%. We report a 21-year-old woman with CCHD who presented with symptomatic erythrocytosis with numbness and tingling with hemoglobin 25.2 g/dl and hematocrit 75.8%. Her symptoms resolved with IV hydration. Other factors, including dehydration and iron deficiency, may precipitate hyperviscosity symptoms. The treatment is volume replacement and low-dose iron therapy, not phlebotomy. Repeated phlebotomy causes iron deficiency with microcytic erythrocytes, which increases the whole blood viscosity and, therefore, can potentially accentuate rather than decrease the risk for a cerebrovascular accident.