Classification and external resources

Blood film with a striking absence of neutrophils, leaving only red blood cells and platelets
ICD-10 D70
ICD-9 288.0
DiseasesDB 8994
eMedicine med/1640
MeSH D009503

Neutropenia, from Latin prefix neutro- (neither, for neutral staining) and Greek suffix -πενία (deficiency), is a hematological disorder characterized by an abnormally low number of neutrophils, the most important type of white blood cell. Neutrophils usually make up 50-70% of circulating white blood cells and serve as the primary defense against infections by destroying bacteria in the blood. Hence, patients with neutropenia are more susceptible to bacterial infections and, without prompt medical attention, the condition may become life-threatening (neutropenic sepsis).

Neutropenia can be acute or chronic depending on the duration of the illness. A patient has chronic neutropenia if the condition lasts for longer than three months. It is sometimes used interchangeably with the term leukopenia ("deficit in the number of white blood cells"), as neutrophils are the most abundant leukocytes, but neutropenia is more properly considered a subset of leukopenia as a whole.

There are numerous causes of neutropenia that can roughly be divided between either problems in the production of the cells by the bone marrow and destruction of the cells elsewhere in the body. Treatment depends on the nature of the cause, and emphasis is placed on the prevention and treatment of infection.



There are three general guidelines used to classify the severity of neutropenia based on the absolute neutrophil count (ANC) measured in cells per microliter of blood:[1]

  • Mild neutropenia (1000 <= ANC < 1500) — minimal risk of infection
  • Moderate neutropenia (500 <= ANC < 1000) — moderate risk of infection
  • Severe neutropenia (ANC < 500) — severe risk of infection.

Signs and symptoms

Neutropenia can go undetected, but is generally discovered when a patient has developed severe infections or sepsis. Some common infections can take an unexpected course in neutropenic patients; formation of pus, for example, can be notably absent, as this requires circulating neutrophil granulocytes.

Some common symptoms of neutropenia include fevers and frequent infections. These infections can result in conditions such as mouth ulcers, diarrhea, a burning sensation when urinating, unusual redness, pain, or swelling around a wound, or a sore throat.


Low neutrophil counts are detected on a full blood count. Generally, other investigations are required to arrive at the right diagnosis. When the diagnosis is uncertain, or serious causes are suspected, bone marrow biopsy is often necessary.

Other investigations commonly performed: serial neutrophil counts for suspected cyclic neutropenia, tests for antineutrophil antibodies, autoantibody screen and investigations for systemic lupus erythematosus, vitamin B12 and folate assays and acidified serum (Ham's) test.[2]


Causes can be divided into the following groups:

There is often a mild neutropenia in viral infections. Additionally, there is a condition called morning pseudoneutropenia which might be a side effect of certain anti-psychotic medications.


There is no ideal therapy for neutropenia, but recombinant G-CSF (granulocyte-colony stimulating factor) such as filgrastim can be effective in chemotherapy patients, in patients with congenital forms of neutropenia including severe congenital neutropenia, autosomal recessive Kostmann's syndrome, cyclic neutropenia, and myelokathexis.


The relationship between a low neutrophil count and increased risk of infection was first demonstrated in patients with leukemia.[4]


Guidelines given to neutropenic patients regarding diet are currently being studied[5]. As of 2011, the Neutropenic Diet Guideline includes the following recommendations[6]:

  • Avoid raw vegetables and fruit.
  • Avoid take-out foods and fast foods and fountain drinks.
  • Avoid aged cheese.
  • Cook all produce to well done. Eggs must be hard-boiled.
  • Avoid deli meats.
  • No raw nuts, nuts roasted in shell, or freshly ground nutbutters from a healthfood store.
  • No well water
  • No yogurt

See also


  1. ^ Hsieh MM, Everhart JE, Byrd-Holt DD, Tisdale JF, Rodgers GP (Apr 2007). "Prevalence of neutropenia in the U.S. population: age, sex, smoking status, and ethnic differences". Ann. Intern. Med. 146 (7): 486–92. ISSN 0003-4819. PMID 17404350. 
  2. ^ Levene, Malcolm I.; Lewis, S. M.; Bain, Barbara J.; Imelda Bates (2001). Dacie & Lewis Practical Haematology. London: W B Saunders. pp. 586. ISBN 0-443-06377-X. 
  3. ^ American Society of Hematology Trisenox® (arsenic trioxide) in Patients with Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS): Preliminary Results of a Phase I/II Study. Norbert Vey, MD1,*, Francois Dreyfus, MD1,*, Agnes Guerci, MD1,*, Pierre Fenaux, MD1, Herve Dombret, MD1, Alan K. Burnett, MD2, Andre Bosly, MD3, Walter Feremans, MD4, David T. Bowen, MD5 and Marja Heiskala, MD6
  4. ^ Bodey GP, Buckley M, Sathe YS, Freireich EJ (Feb 1966). "Quantitative relationships between circulating leukocytes and infection in patients with acute leukemia". Ann. Intern. Med. 64 (2): 328–40. ISSN 0003-4819. PMID 5216294. 
  5. ^ Jubelirer, S., The Benefit of the Neutropenic Diet: Fact or Fiction?, Oncologist, 2011;16(5):704-7. Epub 6 April 2011
  6. ^ The Effectiveness of the Neutropenic Diet in Pediatric Oncology Patients, Montefiore Medical Center, Last updated 4 March 2010, Accessed 15 June 2011.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Neutropenia — Frote de sangre en el que se observa solo un granulocito (neutrófilo) en un mar de glóbulos rojos. Normalmente aparecerían docenas de leucocitos en un campo de esta amplificación (10x) …   Wikipedia Español

  • neutropenia — f. hemat. Presencia de leucocitos neutrófilos en sangre por debajo de su nivel habitual. La neutropenia puede ser congénita o estar provocada por determinados fármacos, radiaciones ionizantes y enfermedades de la propia sangre o infecciosas de… …   Diccionario médico

  • Neutropenia — Not enough neutrophils, neutrophils being a type of white blood cell (specifically a form of granulocyte) filled with neutrally staining granules, tiny sacs of enzymes that help the cell to kill and digest microorganisms it has engulfed by… …   Medical dictionary

  • neutropenia — n. an abnormal decrease in the number of neutrophils in peripheral blood. Neutropenia may occur in a wide variety of diseases, including certain hereditary defects, aplastic anaemias, tumours of the bone marrow, agranulocytosis, and acute… …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • neutropenia — {{#}}{{LM N27304}}{{〓}} {{[}}neutropenia{{]}} ‹neu·tro·pe·nia› {{《}}▍ s.f.{{》}} Disminución anormal del número de neutrófilos en la circulación periférica …   Diccionario de uso del español actual con sinónimos y antónimos

  • neutropenia — noun leukopenia in which the decrease is primarily in number of neutrophils (the chief phagocytic leukocyte) • Hypernyms: ↑leukopenia, ↑leucopenia • Hyponyms: ↑cyclic neutropenia …   Useful english dictionary

  • neutropenia — noun Etymology: New Latin, from neutro (from International Scientific Vocabulary neutrophil) + penia Date: circa 1927 leukopenia in which the decrease in white blood cells is chiefly in neutrophils • neutropenic adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • neutropenia — Condition in which the number of neutrophils circulating in the blood is below normal …   Dictionary of molecular biology

  • neutropenia — neu·tro·pe·ni·a (no͞o trə pēʹnē ə, nyo͞o ) n. An abnormal decrease in the number of neutrophils in the blood.   [neutrophil + penia.]   neu tro·penʹic ( pĕnʹĭk) adj. * * * …   Universalium

  • neutropenia — noun A hematological disorder characterized by an abnormally low neutrophil count …   Wiktionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.