Hyperviscosity Syndrome


Article Author:
Alexis Perez Rogers


Article Editor:
Molly Estes


Editors In Chief:
Ishwarlal Jialal


Managing Editors:
Avais Raja
Orawan Chaigasame
Carrie Smith
Abdul Waheed
Khalid Alsayouri
Kyle Blair
Trevor Nezwek
Radia Jamil
Erin Hughes
Patrick Le
Anoosh Zafar Gondal
Saad Nazir
William Gossman
Hassam Zulfiqar
Navid Mahabadi
Hussain Sajjad
Steve Bhimji
Muhammad Hashmi
John Shell
Matthew Varacallo
Heba Mahdy
Ahmad Malik
Sarosh Vaqar
Mark Pellegrini
James Hughes
Beata Beatty
Daniyal Ameen
Altif Muneeb
Beenish Sohail
Nazia Sadiq
Hajira Basit
Phillip Hynes
Komal Shaheen
Sandeep Sekhon


Updated:
2/18/2019 10:32:37 PM

Introduction

Hyperviscosity syndrome (HVS) is an oncologic emergency that classically presents with the triad of neurological deficits, visual changes, and mucosal bleeding. Elevated blood viscosity is the result of either red blood cell shape deformity or a pathological increase in serum proteins, red blood cells (RBC), white blood cells (WBC), or platelets. The most common cause of HVS is Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia (WM), and therefore, the term HVS is typically used to describe an increase in serum proteins. Management consists of supportive care with intravenous fluids, plasmapheresis, and treatment of the underlying hematological condition.[1][2][3][4]

Etiology

Any pathologic elevation of the cellular components (erythrocytes, leukocytes, or platelets) or acellular components (protein) of blood can cause hyperviscosity. Conditions responsible for HVS that involve cellular components of blood include polycythemia vera, leukemia, and thrombocytosis. Sickle cell disease and spherocytosis can also contribute to HVS due to deformed red blood cells. The pathologic rise of acellular components can either be monoclonal or polyclonal. Monoclonal diseases include myeloma, Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia (WM), and cryoglobulinemia. Rheumatic conditions such as seropositive rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and Sjogren syndrome compromise polyclonal causes of HVS as well as Castleman disease and HIV infection.[5][6][7][8]

Epidemiology

Hypergammaglobulinemia is the most common cause of HVS, specifically the monoclonal condition Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. More than 30% of all WM patients develop HVS at some point in their life because of the large star-shaped IgM pentamers that are highly viscous. Myelomas are the second leading cause of HVS. About 25% of HVS cases secondary to myelomas are caused by IgA, followed by IgG myelomas at less than 5% of cases.

Pathophysiology

Viscosity is formally defined as the measurement of the internal resistance of a fluid to flow but can simply be thought of as the "thickness" or "stickiness" of a fluid. When fluid has low viscosity, it travels quickly and without much difficulty. Viscous fluids are thicker and travel more slowly. HVS is the pathological condition in which blood is "thicker" than normal and therefore flow is reduced.  An increase in blood viscosity can be caused either by a deformity of the shape of red blood cells (RBCs) which causes RBC aggregation and decreased blood flow or by any pathological elevation of the components of blood. This includes RBC, WBC, platelets, or serum proteins.

This increase in viscosity causes sluggish blood flow, relative decreased microvascular circulation, and hypoperfusion of tissues. An increase in circulating proteins can also affect platelet aggregation and cause prolonged bleeding time. The severity of clinical symptoms is directly related to the increased levels of serum viscosity, with progressively more severe symptoms occurring as the individual patient’s serum viscosity increases. The level of viscosity at which symptoms can initially present is variable from person to person depending on the underlying physiology, but for a given patient, symptoms will typically manifest about the same level of viscosity over time.

History and Physical

A high degree of clinical suspicion is required based on history and physical exam findings to diagnose HVS. During history taking, it is important to note any current or past hematological disorders as well as any family history of such conditions. The clinical triad of mucosal or skin bleeding, neurological deficits, and visual disturbances suggests HVS; however, a variety of end-organ damages can also be observed as the initial presenting symptom. 

Bleeding is the most common manifestation and typically arises from impaired platelet function resulting in oozing mucosal surfaces like epistaxis, bleeding gums, or gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding. Neurological findings can include a headache, neuropathic syndromes, generalized stupor, coma, dizziness, ataxia, hearing impairment, seizures, and stroke syndromes. These neurological manifestations are due to decreased blood flow to the central nervous system and deposition of paraproteins within the myelin sheath of peripheral nerves. Retinopathy and visual derangements such as blurred vision or double vision arise because of microvascular changes such as thrombosis or hemorrhage. The classic finding of "sausage link" or "boxcar" engorgement of retinal veins can be seen on the fundoscopic exam as well as papilledema, flame-shaped hemorrhages, or exudates. The eye examination is an important part of the physical exam because it can enable prompt diagnosis and treatment in the appropriate clinical setting. Less commonly seen are cardiopulmonary symptoms such as high output cardiac failure, shortness of breath, valvular dysfunction, or myocardial infarction. HVS can also cause acute kidney injury, likely resulting from a relative hypoperfusion state.

Evaluation

Laboratory evidence of high serum viscosity establishes the diagnosis. There is controversy over whether whole blood viscosity versus serum viscosity is superior, but most clinical laboratories measure the viscosity of the serum component of blood. Viscosity is measured in the unit of centipoise (cp). The viscosity of water is 1 cp. Normal serum viscosity relative to water is 1.4 to 1.8 cp. Symptoms of hyperviscosity can appear with a serum viscosity as low as 3 cp, but usually, arise when it exceeds 4 to 5 cp.[9][10][11]

Further testing should include a complete blood count (CBC), full serum chemistries, coagulation profile, and urinalysis. An elevated albumin-protein gap along with significant proteinuria on routine urinalysis suggest an underlying gammopathy. Rouleaux formation on a peripheral blood smear is highly suggestive of serum stasis. Serum stasis can also lead to the malfunction of laboratory testing equipment in which lab samples cannot be analyzed. This should raise suspicion for an underlying increase in serum viscosity. Measuring quantitative immunoglobulins is not necessary to establish a diagnosis of HVS, but can help guide long-term treatment if measured before and after the intervention.

Treatment / Management

HVS is an oncological emergency, and timely treatment can prevent life-threatening complications such as thromboembolic events, myocardial infarction, and catastrophic ischemia that results in multiple organ failure. Therapy should be based on the severity of signs and symptoms rather than the calculated degree of viscosity. Most signs and symptoms are reversible with prompt treatment. Short-term management is directed at symptom control, whereas long-term management is directed at controlling the underlying hematologic condition. The mainstays of treatment include supportive therapy, plasma exchange or plasmapheresis, and chemotherapy. Dehydration can worsen HVS, and these patients are usually dehydrated. Therefore, judicious fluid administration is advised. It is considered common practice to empirically administer 1 to 2 L of normal saline when HVS is suspected. The more definitive short-term treatment is plasmapheresis. It can promptly reverse most clinical manifestations of HVS and is usually well tolerated and safe. Plasmapheresis can decrease serum viscosity by 20% to 30% and can be done on a daily basis until clinical resolution of symptoms.  Patients can present with concurrent anemia or acquire dilutional anemia secondary to fluid resuscitation, and it is important to note that transfusion of packed red blood cells can increase blood viscosity. Therefore, one should wait until after plasmapheresis has reduced serum viscosity before transfusing.[12][13][14]

If prompt plasmapheresis cannot be obtained, a temporizing measure that can be performed emergently is intravenous phlebotomy. This involves phlebotomizing about 1 to 2 units of the patient's blood and concurrently replacing it with normal saline. However, this has to be performed with caution because aggressive plasma exchange can cause the elimination of clotting factors, albumin, and platelets. Phlebotomy should only be completed in the presence of severe neurological deficits like seizure or coma.

The definitive treatment of HVS involves chemotherapy for the underlying hematologic condition. Plasmapheresis does not affect the underlying disease, so chemotherapy is often started concomitantly. A hematology/oncology consultant should administer this, and it is strongly recommended to consult with this expert as soon as HVS is identified. Since exchange therapies such as plasmapheresis and leukapheresis are the mainstay of management, these patients may require transfer to a higher level of care facility.

Pearls and Other Issues

  • HVS exists as a clinical triad of neurological symptoms, mucosal bleeding, and visual disturbances.
  • HVS can be caused by overproduction of nearly any hematologic component but is most common with hypergammaglobulinemia.
  • Symptoms are varied and driven by decreased blood flow through capillary beds.
  • Diagnosis of HVS is made by determining an elevated serum viscosity which can be suggested by Rouleax formation on peripheral smear or repeated malfunction of laboratory testing equipment.
  • Treatment is driven first by reversal of dehydration, elective phlebotomy, but most definitively by plasmapheresis, until treatment of the underlying condition can be initiated.

Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes

The diagnosis and management of hyperviscosity syndrome is done by a multidisciplinary team consisting of a hematologist, nephrologist, oncologist, internist, and an intensivist. HVS is an oncological emergency, and timely treatment can prevent life-threatening complications such as thromboembolic events, myocardial infarction, and catastrophic ischemia that results in multiple organ failure.  Short-term management is directed at symptom control, whereas long-term management is directed at controlling the underlying hematologic condition. The mainstays of treatment include supportive therapy, plasma exchange or plasmapheresis, and chemotherapy. The patient must be kept well hydrated at all times to prevent complications. The more definitive short-term treatment is plasmapheresis. It can promptly reverse most clinical manifestations of HVS and is usually well tolerated and safe. Phlebotomy may be an option when one is unable to perform plasmapheresis. The key is to treat the primary cause of HVS. A hematology/oncology consultant should administer this, and it is strongly recommended to consult with this expert as soon as HVS is identified. The outcomes for patients with HVS depend on the primary tumor and extent of spread. If the primary malignancy is beyond control, the outlook is grim.[15][16] (Level V)

 

 


Interested in Participating?

We are looking for contributors to author, edit, and peer review our vast library of review articles and multiple choice questions. In as little as 2-3 hours you can make a significant contribution to your specialty. In return for a small amount of your time, you will receive free access to all content and you will be published as an author or editor in eBooks, apps, online CME/CE activities, and an online Learning Management System for students, teachers, and program directors that allows access to review materials in over 500 specialties.

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor

This is an academic project designed to provide inexpensive peer-reviewed Apps, eBooks, and very soon an online CME/CE system to help students identify weaknesses and improve knowledge. We would like you to consider being an author or editor. Please click here to learn more. Thank you for you for your interest, the StatPearls Publishing Editorial Team.

Hyperviscosity Syndrome - Questions

Take a quiz of the questions on this article.

Take Quiz
Which of the following combination of symptoms is most suggestive of underlying hyperviscosity syndrome?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
In a patient with Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia, hyperviscosity syndrome can be caused by overproduction of which of the following components?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
Which of the following would be a definitive diagnostic indicator of hyperviscosity syndrome?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
A 65-year-old male with recent diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia presents to the emergency room with complaints of headache, blurred vision, and intermittent epistaxis. Routine labs reveal a WBC count of 153,000/microL. Which of the following is the most appropriate initial step in management?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
A 36-year-old female presents to the emergency department with a headache. She has a history of Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia and has been diagnosed in the past with hyperviscosity syndrome. She notes that her headache today seems similar to that episode, but she does not have bleeding gums or arm weakness like she did in the past. Chart review shows her prior serum viscosity level was 4.3 centipoise (cP). Today’s measurement is 2.1 cP. Which of the following is the most appropriate disposition for this patient?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up

Hyperviscosity Syndrome - References

References

Georgakopoulos CD,Plotas P,Angelakis A,Kagkelaris K,Tzouvara E,Makri OE, Dexamethasone implant for immunogammopathy maculopathy associated with IgA multiple myeloma. Therapeutic advances in ophthalmology. 2019 Jan-Dec;     [PubMed]
Abrams RMC,Elder GA, Safety of Therapeutic Plasma Exchange for the Treatment of Guillain-Barré Syndrome in Polycythemia Vera. The neurologist. 2018 Nov;     [PubMed]
Daniel R,Chan RY, Hyperviscosity syndrome in splenic marginal zone lymphoma. Blood. 2018 Oct 11;     [PubMed]
Espinosa-Barberi G,Galván González FJ,Miranda Fernández S,Viera Peláez D,Medina Rivero F,Marrero Saavedra D, Vasoproliferative retinopathy secondary to Waldenström's disease. Archivos de la Sociedad Espanola de Oftalmologia. 2019 Feb;     [PubMed]
Higdon ML,Atkinson CJ,Lawrence KV, Oncologic Emergencies: Recognition and Initial Management. American family physician. 2018 Jun 1;     [PubMed]
Tedeschi A,Conticello C,Rizzi R,Benevolo G,Laurenti L,Petrucci MT,Zaja F,Varettoni M, Diagnostic framing of IgM monoclonal gammopathy: Focus on Waldenström macroglobulinemia. Hematological oncology. 2018 Sep 7;     [PubMed]
Castillo JJ,Treon SP, Initial Evaluation of the Patient with Waldenström Macroglobulinemia. Hematology/oncology clinics of North America. 2018 Oct;     [PubMed]
Miyamoto Y,Hamasaki Y,Matsumoto A,Doi K,Noiri E,Nangaku M, Prediction of immunoglobulin M reduction via therapeutic dose of simple plasma exchange and double filtration plasmapheresis using membrane separation in patients with hyperviscosity syndrome caused by Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. Journal of clinical apheresis. 2018 Oct;     [PubMed]
Bento C,McMullin MF,Percy M,Cario H, Primary Familial and Congenital Polycythemia 1993;     [PubMed]
Castillo JJ,Garcia-Sanz R,Hatjiharissi E,Kyle RA,Leleu X,McMaster M,Merlini G,Minnema MC,Morra E,Owen RG,Poulain S,Stone MJ,Tam C,Varettoni M,Dimopoulos MA,Treon SP,Kastritis E, Recommendations for the diagnosis and initial evaluation of patients with Waldenström Macroglobulinaemia: A Task Force from the 8th International Workshop on Waldenström Macroglobulinaemia. British journal of haematology. 2016 Oct;     [PubMed]
Jeevasankar M,Agarwal R,Chawla D,Paul VK,Deorari AK, Polycythemia in the newborn. Indian journal of pediatrics. 2008 Jan;     [PubMed]
Ballestri M,Ferrari F,Magistroni R,Mariano M,Ceccherelli GB,Milanti G,De Palma M,Albertazzi A, Plasma exchange in acute and chronic hyperviscosity syndrome: a rheological approach and guidelines study. Annali dell'Istituto superiore di sanita. 2007;     [PubMed]
Mullen EC,Wang M, Recognizing hyperviscosity syndrome in patients with Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. Clinical journal of oncology nursing. 2007 Feb;     [PubMed]
Zarkovic M,Kwaan HC, Correction of hyperviscosity by apheresis. Seminars in thrombosis and hemostasis. 2003 Oct;     [PubMed]
Chen YY,Yen YF,Lin JX,Feng SC,Wei LC,Lai YJ,Shen YC, Risk of Ischemic Stroke, Hemorrhagic Stroke, and All-Cause Mortality in Retinal Vein Occlusion: A Nationwide Population-Based Cohort Study. Journal of ophthalmology. 2018;     [PubMed]
Haris A,Arányi J,Braunitzer H,Kálmán E,Merán Z,Soltész M,Polner K, [Role of plasmapheresis in immunological kidney diseases. Experience from 1050 completed plasmapheresis treatment sessions]. Orvosi hetilap. 2011 Jul 10;     [PubMed]

Disclaimer

The intent of StatPearls is to provide practice questions and explanations to assist you in identifying and resolving knowledge deficits. These questions and explanations are not intended to be a source of the knowledge base of all of medicine, nor is it intended to be a board or certification review of Pathology-Chemistry. The authors or editors do not warrant the information is complete or accurate. The reader is encouraged to verify each answer and explanation in several references. All drug indications and dosages should be verified before administration.

StatPearls offers the most comprehensive database of free multiple-choice questions with explanations and short review chapters ever developed. This system helps physicians, medical students, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, and allied health professionals identify education deficits and learn new concepts. StatPearls is not a board or certification review system for Pathology-Chemistry, it is a learning system that you can use to help improve your knowledge base of medicine for life-long learning. StatPearls will help you identify your weaknesses so that when you are ready to study for a board or certification exam in Pathology-Chemistry, you will already be prepared.

Our content is updated continuously through a multi-step peer review process that will help you be prepared and review for a thorough knowledge of Pathology-Chemistry. When it is time for the Pathology-Chemistry board and certification exam, you will already be ready. Besides online study quizzes, we also publish our peer-reviewed content in eBooks and mobile Apps. We also offer inexpensive CME/CE, so our content can be used to attain education credits while you study Pathology-Chemistry.