Described by Pappenheimer in 1945, the Pappenheimer bodies are basophilic erythrocytic inclusions that are usually located at the periphery of the cell. They contain iron and stain with Prussian blue. They also stain with Romanowsky stains because of co-precipitation of ribosomes. Pappenheimer bodies seen following splenectomy in patients without haematological disease are composed of ferritin. Whereas Pappenheimer bodies seen in pathological conditions like sideroblastic anaemia are also composed of iron laden mitochondria and phagosomes.
Pappenheimer bodies are seen in sideroblastic anaemia and haemolytic anaemia. The spleen clears Pappenheimer bodies. Splenectomy is associated with an increase in Pappenheimer bodies. The increase is more pronounced in patients with haemolytic anaemia and sideroblastic anaemia. Cells containing Pappenheimer bodies can be confused with late reticulocytes. Prussian blue stain, which is not taken up by reticulocytes, is helpful in differentiating the two. Pappenheimer bodies can also cause a false elevation of platelet counts when performed with electronic counters.
There is an intererting article about the history of Pappenheimer bodies published in The American Journal of Haematology (Am. J. Hematol 75:249;2004)