Haptoglobin 

Updated: Feb 12, 2014
  • Author: Cory Wilczynski, MD; Chief Editor: Eric B Staros, MD  more...
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Reference Range

Haptoglobin is an acute-phase reactant whose principal clinical utility is in defining conditions of hemolysis. levels can also become elevated in infection and inflammation.

The reference range of haptoglobin in adults is 30-200 mg/dL. [5]

In neonates, haptoglobin is absent.

Adult levels are reached by age 4 months.

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Interpretation

Haptoglobin is used as an acute-phase marker of red blood cell (RBC) destruction. Its value decreases and may even be absent when RBCs are destroyed at twice the normal rate.

Haptoglobin values above 40 mg/dL are used to show signs of successful splenectomy. A value above 40 mg/dL is also used as an indicator in chronic hemolysis to show that splenectomy is not indicated. [1]

Increased haptoglobin levels are seen in the following conditions: [1, 2]

  • Diseases associated with elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) (acute-phase reactants) such as infection, trauma, inflammation, hepatitis, amyloidosis, collagen diseases, or lymphoma and leukemia
  • Obstructive or biliary diseases
  • Steroid use
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Smoking
  • Increased estrogen level

Decreased or absent haptoglobin levels are seen in the following conditions: [1, 2]

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Collection and Panels

Specimen: Plasma Condition: Fasting preferred

Container: Plasma separator tube or serum separator tube; also acceptable: green (sodium, lithium, or heparin), lavender (EDTA), or pink (K2 EDTA) tube

Collection method: Routine venipuncture

Processing: Allow specimen to clot completely at room temperature. Separate sample from plasma or serum within 2 hours of collection. Minimum required sample is around 0.5 mL. Results are typically reported within 24 hours.

Unacceptable conditions: Hemolyzed

Storage: Refrigerated

Length of storage: Ambient, refrigerated, or frozen is 3 months

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Background

Description

Haptoglobin is a colorless protein of the alpha-globulin fraction of human serum. It transports “freed” hemoglobin released from destroyed red blood cells to the reticuloendothelial system.

Haptoglobin is produced by the liver and collects the hemoglobin from destroyed red blood cells, then transporting it back to the liver, where heme is converted to bilirubin. [1] In the setting of increased RBC destruction, haptoglobin becomes depleted, and the free hemoglobin dimmers are filtered by the kidney, ultimately producing hemosiderin. [2] Macrophages destroy the hemoglobin-haptoglobin complex. [3] The hemoglobin-haptoglobin complex is removed from the bloodstream within minutes. [4]

The kidneys can filter about 5 g of hemoglobin per day; the unprocessed and unbound hemoglobin is oxidized and then becomes methemoglobin. [2] Unbound haptoglobin has a half-life of 5 days in the serum. [4]

Haptoglobin does not reach adult values in the serum until around age 4 months.

The 3 phenotypes of haptoglobin include haptoglobin 1-1 (Hpl 1-1), haptoglobin 2-1 (Hpl 2-1), and haptoglobin 2-2 (Hpl 2-2). No diseases are associated with specific variations, but there are genetic familiarities that make the genotyping useful in paternity testing and forensic medicine. [2]

Indications/Applications

Haptoglobin is an acute-phase reactant whose principal clinical utility is in defining conditions of hemolysis. levels can also become elevated in infection and inflammation.

In hemolytic anemia, lactic dehydrogenase (LDH) levels typically increase while haptoglobin levels decrease. In a retrospective study from 1980, the sensitivity and specificity of haptoglobin in the diagnosis of hemolytic anemia was 83% and 96%, respectively. Overall, a serum haptoglobin level below 25 mg/dL equated to an 87% probability of predicting hemolytic disease. [6]

False-positive and false-negative results can occur in patients with comorbid conditions; for example hypersplenism plus hemolytic anemia may result in a false-normal overall serum value.

Other tests used in combination with haptoglobin to confirm hemolysis include peripheral smear, LDH, indirect bilirubin, reticulocyte count, complete blood count, and Coomb’s test.

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