Pearson Syndrome Differential Diagnoses

Updated: Jul 26, 2021
  • Author: Zora R Rogers, MD; Chief Editor: Hassan M Yaish, MD  more...
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Diagnostic Considerations

Shwachman-Diamond syndrome is the combination of pancreatic exocrine insufficiency and neutropenia. Epiphyseal and metaphyseal dysostosis also occur in Shwachman-Diamond syndrome. Patients with both syndromes may have cytopenias of all 3 lineages, but patients with Pearson syndrome have severe anemia as most characteristic finding although those with Shwachman-Diamond syndrome have neutropenia.

Fanconi anemia is a congenital bone marrow failure syndrome that can be distinguished from Pearson syndrome by the frequent presence of physical abnormalities, absence of pancreatic malabsorption, and by increased chromosomal fragility. Individuals with Fanconi anemia may have short stature, hyperpigmentation, anomalies of the thumb and radius, and other congenital abnormalities. No vacuolization of hematopoietic precursors occurs in Fanconi anemia, and chromosomes from patients with Fanconi anemia develop breaks when incubated with diepoxybutane. The cytopenias of Fanconi anemia usually start with thrombocytopenia and mild macrocytic anemia and often improve at least temporarily with androgen therapy.

Diamond-Blackfan anemia is congenital pure red cell aplasia characterized by isolated, severe, macrocytic anemia and often bony abnormalities of the thumbs and radii. Serum adenosine deaminase levels are usually increased in Diamond-Blackfan anemia, and no pancreatic insufficiency is observed. Many cases of Diamond-Blackfan anemia respond to glucocorticoid therapy.

Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), specifically the World Health Organization (WHO) classification refractory cytopenia of childhood, may also display cytoplasmic vacuolation. Patients with MDS may have additional cytogenetic abnormalities in the bone marrow and, of course, a negative genetic test for mtDNA deletion. [27]

Deletion of 22q11.2, usually associated with DiGeorge and velocardiofacial syndrome, may also display myelodysplastic features and cytoplasmic vacuolation. [28]

Hereditary sideroblastic anemia lacks the characteristic vacuolization of marrow precursors, and no concomitant pancreatic insufficiency occurs. Sideroblastic anemia may respond to pyridoxine or pyridoxal phosphate.

Copper deficiency, either primary or secondary on the basis of excess zinc intake, is associated with neuropathy, cytopenias, myelodysplastic features and cytoplasmic vacuolation. [29] Hypocupremia can be differentiated from Pearson syndrome on the basis of a low serum copper concentration and improvement with supplemental administration of copper.

Differential Diagnoses