Background: The present study was aimed to prove the usefulness of a new diagnostic plot (Hema-Plot), illustrating the relationship between the hemoglobin content of reticulocytes (Ret-He) as a marker of functional iron deficiency and the difference between the reticulocyte and erythrocyte hemoglobin content (Delta-He) as a marker of an impaired hemoglobinization of newly formed reticulocytes occurring during inflammatory processes, to differentiate between various disease-specific types of anemia.
Methods: A complete blood and reticulocyte count was performed on routine EDTA blood samples from 345 patients with and without various disease-specific types of anemia using the Sysmex XN-9000 hematology analyzer: blood healthy newborns (n = 23), blood healthy adults (n = 31), patients suffering from anemia of chronic disease (ACD) due to diverse oncological, chronic inflammatory, or autoimmune diseases (total n = 138) with (n = 65) and without therapy (n = 73), patients with thalassemia and/or hemoglobinopathy (n = 18), patients with iron deficiency anemia (IDA) (n = 35), patients with a combination of ACD and IDA (n = 17), as well as patients suffering from sepsis (total n = 83) with (n = 32) and without therapy (n = 51). The results for Ret-He, Delta-He, and C-reactive protein (CRP) were statistically compared (Mann-Whitney U Test) between the particular patient groups and the diagnostic plots were drawn.
Results: Delta-Hemoglobin showed a statistically significant difference between blood healthy newborns and blood healthy adults (p ≤ 0.05), while Ret-He and C-reactive protein did not. In addition, of all three biomarkers only Delta-He showed a statistically significant difference (p ≤ 0.05) between the ACD/IDA and IDA cohort. Delta-He, Ret-He, and CRP showed a statistically significant difference between patient cohorts with and without therapy suffering from ACD, ACD/IDA, and sepsis before and after medical therapy (p ≤ 0.05). The Hema-Plot illustrated the dynamic character of Ret-He and Delta-He, notably in inflammation-based types of anemia like ACD or ACD/ IDA.
Conclusions: Delta-He is a new biomarker clearly distinguishing between inflammation-based types of anemia before and after medical therapy, as well as between ACD/IDA and IDA. The new Hema-Plot is a helpful tool for differential diagnosis and disease-monitoring in various types of disease-specific anemia, especially in ACD and ACD/IDA. The Hema-Plot can be used to identify non-adherent patients or an insufficient therapy.