Iron metabolism and laboratory investigation of iron deficiency anemia

Hippokratia 2004, 8(1):19-25

T.M Alemayehu
BTC, Hippokratio General Hospital, Thessaloniki, Grreece


Iron deficiency anemia is the most common nutritional deficiency anaemia affecting millions of people world-wide. The main effects of disturbances in iron metabolism, i.e. iron deficiency and iron overload, have specific consequences on the health of the individual, and should be investigated and treated promptly and appropriately.
Most of the laboratory tests used to identify patients with iron deficiency or iron deficiency anemia are simple and can be carried out in most hospital laboratories. The results nevertheless, should be interpreted with caution because different parameters can affect the test results. One should decide which laboratory tests are to be used depending on the cost effectiveness, specificity and simplicity of the method.
Recently, non-invasive methods are also used to determine the level of iron overload in the liver and heart of patients with hereditary hemochromatosis and other hematologic diseases accompanied with hemosiderosis. Magnetic resonance imaging of the liver is much more easily accepted by the patient than liver biopsy and the results are satisfactory.