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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Cold agglutinin disease

Other Names for this Disease
  • Anemia, hemolytic, cold antibody
  • CAD
  • Cold antibody disease
  • Cold antibody hemolytic anemia
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How might cold agglutinin disease be treated?

If symptoms are mild or if the destruction of red blood cells seems to be slowing of its own, usually no treatment is needed. However, if the rate at which red blood cells are being destroyed appears to be increasing, a corticosteroid drug such as prednisone is usually the first choice for treatment. High doses may be used at first, followed by a gradual tapering of the dose over many weeks or months. Those on steroid drugs must be carefully monitored while the drug is being used because overuse can lead to dependence and severe side effects.[1]

When people do not respond to corticosteroids or when the corticosteroid causes intolerable side effects, surgery to remove the spleen (splenectomy) may be considered. If the destruction of red blood cells persists after removal of the spleen or when surgery cannot be performed, immunosuppressive drugs, such as cyclophosphamide or azathioprine, may be prescribed.[1]

Plasmapheresis, which involves filtering blood to remove antibodies, is occasionally helpful when other treatments fail. When red blood cell destruction is severe, blood transfusions are sometimes needed, but they do not treat the cause of the anemia and provide only temporary relief. In cases where blood transfusions are necessary, certain guidelines must be followed because of the temperature sensitivities involved.[1]
Last updated: 12/15/2011

  1. Cold antibody hemolytic anemia. National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). 2006; Accessed 1/20/2012.

Clinical Trials & Research for this Disease

  • lists trials that are studying or have studied Cold agglutinin disease. Click on the link to go to to read descriptions of these studies.