question and answer
Ethnic neutropenia
December 2010
Is neutropenia common in some ethnic backgrounds, and therefore not something that needs to be investigated? Sakina Raj, MD, Calgary, AB

About 25% to 50% of people of African decent or some ethnic groups from the Middle East have benign ethnic neutropenia. But this does not mean that they don’t need to be investigated. You need to look at the patient’s history and physical examination, medication and other laboratory results to decide whether the patient needs further investigation or not. For example, if the patient in the past had a WBC of 5 x 10 e9/L and now has a WBC of 3 x 10 e9/L or the patient has enlarged nodes or an enlarged spleen or mild anemia or thrombocytopenia, you can’t assume that the WBC of 3 x 10 e9/L is due to ethnic or benign neutropenia.

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