Hemoglobin disorders are among the most common genetic diseases worldwide. Molecular diagnosis is helpful in cases where the diagnosis is uncertain and for genetic counseling. Protein-based diagnostic techniques are frequently adequate for initial diagnosis. Molecular genetic testing is pursued in some cases, particularly when a definitive diagnosis is not possible and especially for the purpose of assessing genetic risk for couples wanting to have children. The expertise available in the clinical hematology laboratory is essential for the diagnosis of patients with hemoglobin abnormalities. Initial diagnoses are made using protein-based techniques such as electrophoresis and chromatography. Based on these findings, genetic risk to an individual’s offspring can be assessed. In the setting of β-thalassemia and other β-globin disorders, coincident α-thalassemia may be difficult to diagnose, which can have potentially serious consequences. In addition, unusual forms of β-thalassemia caused by deletions in the β-globin locus cannot be definitively characterized using standard techniques. Molecular diagnostic testing has an important role in the diagnosis of hemoglobin disorders and is important in the setting of genetic counseling. Molecular testing also has a role in prenatal diagnosis to identify fetuses affected by severe hemoglobinopathies and thalassemias.
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