Interpreting sulfhemoglobin and methemoglobin in patients with cyanosis: An overview of patients with M-hemoglobin variants

Aruna Rangan, Michelle E. Savedra, Camila Dergam-Larson, Kenneth C. Swanson, Jessica Szuberski, Ronald S. Go, Tavanna R. Porter, Sarah E. Brunker, Min Shi, Phuong L. Nguyen, James D. Hoyer, Jennifer L. Oliveira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Methemoglobin (MetHb) and sulfhemoglobin (SHb) measurements are useful in the evaluation of cyanosis. When one or both values are elevated, additional analysis is important to establish the etiology of the disorder. Methemoglobinemia occurs from acquired or hereditary causes with diverse treatment considerations, while true sulfhemoglobinemia is only acquired and treatment is restricted to toxin removal. Some toxic exposures can result in a dual increase in MetHb and SHb. Hereditary conditions, such as M-Hemoglobin variants (M-Hbs), can result in increased MetHb and/or SHb values but are clinically compensated and do not require treatment if they are cyanotic but otherwise clinically well. Methods: Herein, we report 53 hemoglobin variant cases that have associated MetHb and SHb levels measured by an adapted Evelyn-Malloy laboratory assay method. Results: Our data indicate M-Hbs cause variable patterns of MetHb and SHb elevation in a fairly reproducible pattern for the particular variant. In particular, α globin chain M-Hbs can mimic acquired sulfhemoglobinemia due to an isolated increased SHb value. Conclusion: If the patient appears clinically well other than cyanosis, M-Hbs should be considered early in the evaluation process to differentiate from acquired conditions to avoid unnecessary testing and treatment regimens and prompt genetic counseling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-844
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Laboratory Hematology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Evelyn-Malloy
  • methemoglobinemia
  • pseudosulfhemoglobinemia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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