Open main menu

Wikipedia β

Megaloblastic anemia (or megaloblastic anaemia) is an anemia (of macrocytic classification) that results from inhibition of DNA synthesis during red blood cell production.[1] When DNA synthesis is impaired, the cell cycle cannot progress from the G2 growth stage to the mitosis (M) stage. This leads to continuing cell growth without division, which presents as macrocytosis. Megaloblastic anemia has a rather slow onset, especially when compared to that of other anemias. The defect in red cell DNA synthesis is most often due to hypovitaminosis, specifically a deficiency of vitamin B12 and/or folic acid. Vitamin B12 deficiency alone will not cause the syndrome in the presence of sufficient folate, as the mechanism is loss of B12 dependent folate recycling, followed by folate-deficiency loss of nucleic acid synthesis (specifically thymine), leading to defects in DNA synthesis. Folic acid supplementation in the absence of vitamin B12 prevents this type of anemia (although other vitamin B12-specific pathologies may be present). Loss of micronutrients may also be a cause. Copper deficiency resulting from an excess of zinc from unusually high oral consumption of zinc-containing denture-fixation creams has been found to be a cause.[2]

Megaloblastic anemia
Hypersegmented neutrophil.png
Peripheral blood smear showing hypersegmented neutrophils, characteristic of megaloblastic anemia.
Classification and external resources
Specialty Hematology
ICD-10 D51.1, D52.0, D53.1
ICD-9-CM 281
DiseasesDB 29507
MedlinePlus 000567
eMedicine med/1420 ped/2575
MeSH D000749

Megaloblastic anemia not due to hypovitaminosis may be caused by antimetabolites that poison DNA production directly, such as some chemotherapeutic or antimicrobial agents (for example azathioprine or trimethoprim).

The pathological state of megaloblastosis is characterized by many large immature and dysfunctional red blood cells (megaloblasts) in the bone marrow[3] and also by hypersegmented neutrophils (those exhibiting five or more nuclear lobes ("segments"), with up to four lobes being normal). These hypersegmented neutrophils can be detected in the peripheral blood (using a diagnostic smear of a blood sample).



Hematological findingsEdit

The blood film can point towards vitamin deficiency:

Blood chemistries will also show:

Normal levels of both methylmalonic acid and total homocysteine rule out clinically significant cobalamin deficiency with virtual certainty.[5]

Bone marrow (not normally checked in a patient suspected of megaloblastic anemia) shows megaloblastic hyperplasia.[6]


The gold standard for the diagnosis of Vitamin B12 deficiency is a low blood level of Vitamin B12. A low level of blood Vitamin B12 is a finding that normally can and should be treated by injections, supplementation, or dietary or lifestyle advice, but it is not a diagnosis. Hypovitaminosis B12 can result from a number of mechanisms, including those listed above. For determination of cause, further patient history, testing, and empirical therapy may be clinically indicated.

A measurement of methylmalonic acid (methylmalonate) can provide an indirect method for partially differentiating Vitamin B12 and folate deficiencies. The level of methylmalonic acid is not elevated in folic acid deficiency. Direct measurement of blood cobalamin remains the gold standard because the test for elevated methylmalonic acid is not specific enough. Vitamin B12 is one necessary prosthetic group to the enzyme methylmalonyl-coenzyme A mutase. Vitamin B12 deficiency is but one among the conditions that can lead to dysfunction of this enzyme and a buildup of its substrate, methylmalonic acid, the elevated level of which can be detected in the urine and blood.

Due to the lack of available radioactive Vitamin B12, the Schilling test is now largely a historical artifact.[citation needed] The Schilling test was performed in the past to help determine the nature of the vitamin B12 deficiency. An advantage of the Schilling test was that it often included Vitamin B12 with intrinsic factor.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Megaloblastic Anemia: Overview - eMedicine Hematology". Retrieved 2009-02-07. 
  2. ^ Berkowitz, Arnold. "M.D.". Oncologist. Oncology News. Retrieved 2012-07-13. 
  3. ^ "Megaloblastic (Pernicious) Anemia - Lucile Packard Children's Hospital". Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  4. ^ "Megaloblastic Anemia". MedlinePlus. 2012. Archived from the original on 30 November 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2015. Megaloblastic anemia is a blood disorder in which there is anemia with larger-than-normal red blood cells. Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells provide oxygen to body tissues. 
  5. ^ Savage DG, Lindenbaum J, Stabler SP, Allen RH (1994). "Sensitivity of serum methylmalonic acid and total homocysteine determinations for diagnosing cobalamin and folate deficiencies". Am. J. Med. 96 (3): 239–46. PMID 8154512. doi:10.1016/0002-9343(94)90149-X. 
  6. ^ Hoffbrand, A. Victor (2012). "Chapter 105. Megaloblastic Anemias". In Longo, D. L.; Fauci, A. S.; Kasper, D. L.; Hauser SL, S. L.; et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine (18th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved October 23, 2015. (Subscription required (help)). 

External linksEdit