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Hematocrit-lowering Effect Following Inactivation of Renin-Angiotensin System with Angiotensin Converting Enzyme Inhibitors and Angiotensin Receptor Blockers

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Several clinical and experimental observations suggest that an intact and activated renin-angiotensin system (RAS) may be an important determinant of erythropoiesis in a variety of clinical conditions, including hypertension, chronic renal insufficiency or failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and congestive heart failure. Accordingly, RAS inactivation may confer susceptibility to the hematocrit-lowering effects of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers. Indeed, a dose-dependent decrease in hematocrit is observed within the first month of such therapy. In the majority of patients with hypertension decreases in hematocrit values after RAS inactivation are small and not clinically important. In extreme conditions, however, such as erythrocytosis after successful renal transplantation, secondary polycythemia of chronically hypoxemic COPD patients, erythrocytosis associated with renovascular hypertension, severe cardiac or renal failure, the hematocrit-lowering effect of angiotensing-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blocker may be profound and even lead to or worsen anemia. Hematocrit reachs its nadir value within three months, and then it remains stable during long-term observations. After discontinuation of RAS blockade, hematocrit values rise gradually over the next three to four months towards the pretreatment levels. The mechanism(s) related to this phenomenon is not yet fully understood, but angiotensin II seems to be responsible for inappropriately sustaining secretion of erythropoietin despite hematocrit elevation and capable to directly stimulate the erythroid progenitors in bone marrow to produce erythrocytes.
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Keywords: Hematocrit-lowering Effect; Renin-Angiotensin; erythrocytes; erythropoietin

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Aretaieion University Hospital, Division of Nephrology, 76 Vas. Sofias Ave., Athens 115 28, Greece.

Publication date: February 1, 2004

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