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Severe refractory warm autoimmune haemolytic anaemia after the SARS-CoV-2 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (BNT162b2 mRNA) managed with emergency splenectomy and complement inhibition with eculizumab

Abstract

A male in his teens with a history of liver transplant for biliary atresia (aged 2 years) and autoimmune haemolytic anaemia (AIHA, aged 6 years) presented with jaundice, dark urine, fatigue and chest discomfort that began 48 hours after the first dose of SARS-CoV-2 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (BNT162b2 mRNA). Investigations revealed a warm AIHA picture. Over 4 weeks the patient developed life-threatening anaemia culminating in haemoglobin of 35 g/L (after transfusion), lactate dehydrogenase of 1293 units/L and bilirubin of 228 µmol/L, refractory to standard treatment with corticosteroids and rituximab. An emergency splenectomy was performed that slowed haemolysis but did not completely ameliorate it. Eculizumab, a terminal complement pathway inhibitor, was initiated to arrest intravascular haemolysis and showed a favourable response. AIHA is rare but described after the SARS-CoV-2 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. This case highlights the rare complication of AIHA, the use of emergency splenectomy for disease control, and the use of eculizumab.

  • Haematology (incl blood transfusion)
  • Transplantation

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