Diagnostic approaches for inherited hemolytic anemia in the genetic era
Whole-exome sequencing is increasingly used for diagnosis and identification of appropriate therapies in patients. Here, we present the case of a 3-yr-old male with a lifelong and severe transfusion-dependent anemia of unclear etiology, despite an extensive clinical workup. Given the difficulty of making the diagnosis and the potential side effects from performing interventions in patients with a congenital anemia of unknown etiology, we opted to perform whole-exome sequencing on the patient and his parents. This resulted in the identification of homozygous loss-of-function mutations in the EPB41 gene, encoding erythrocyte protein band 4.1, which therefore causes a rare and severe form of hereditary elliptocytosis in the patient. Based on prior clinical experience in similar patients, a surgical splenectomy was performed that resulted in subsequent transfusion independence in the patient. This case illustrates how whole-exome sequencing can lead to accurate diagnoses (and exclusion of diagnoses where interventions, such as splenectomy, would be contraindicated), thereby resulting in appropriate and successful therapeutic intervention-a major goal of precision medicine.