What is the mortality and morbidity of beta thalassemia?

Updated: May 07, 2021
  • Author: Pooja Advani, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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The major causes of morbidity and mortality in beta thalassemia are anemia and iron overload. The severe anemia resulting from this disease, if untreated, can result in high-output cardiac failure; the intramedullary erythroid expansion may result in associated skeletal changes such as cortical bone thinning. The long-term increase in red-cell turnover causes hyperbilirubinemia and bilirubin-containing gallstones.

Increased iron deposition resulting from lifelong transfusions and enhanced iron absorption results in secondary iron overload. This overload causes clinical problems similar to those observed with primary hemochromatosis (eg, endocrine dysfunction, liver dysfunction, cardiac dysfunction).

A broad spectrum of neurological complications has also been reported in beta thalassemia complications, although most were subclinical. These have included the following [5] :

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Abnormal findings on evoked potentials
  • Cerebrovascular disease
  • Peripheral neuropathy

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