What is the next best step in the management of this patient?

A 67-year-old female presents to your clinic complaining of fatigue, diarrhea, headaches and a loss of appetite. Upon examination you find that she is having some cognitive difficulty. Laboratory results reveal: MCV: 109fL; Hgb: 9g/dL; MMA and homocystine are both elevated. Shilling test is positive.

What is the next best step in the management of this patient?
A . Lifelong folic acid supplementation
B . Lifelong Vitamin B12 supplementation
C . Iron supplementation for 4-6 months
D . Obtain a Coomb’s test
E . Give corticosteroids and iron supplementation

Answer: B


Lifelong Vitamin B12 supplementation. Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) deficiency generally presents in patients as fatigue, diarrhea and headaches but can also be the cause of cognitive changes (difficulty concentrating, even mild dementia). Pernicious anemia is a macrocytic anemia, therefore laboratory findings indicate an increased mean corpuscular volume (MCV), with a decreased hemoglobin. A positive Schilling test indicates that the B12 deficiency is due to a lack of intrinsic factor. Lifelong cyanocobalamin supplementation (either orally or via injections) is needed to treat pernicious anemia. A is incorrect. Folic acid deficiency anemia is another common type of macrocytic anemia.

However, cognitive deficits are not typically seen with folic acid deficiency. Furthermore, a schilling test would be negative and the methylmalonic acid (MMA) would be normal, rather than elevated. C is incorrect. Iron deficiency anemia causes a microcytic anemia, characterized by a decreased MCV. D is incorrect. A Coomb’s test is used to detect autoimmune hemolysis that may be suspected in patients with normocytic anemia (anemia with an MCV in the normal range). E is incorrect. Corticosteroids and iron supplementation are indicated as treatment in hemolytic anemia.

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