The aim of the present study is to evaluate in an elderly hospitalized population the diagnostic value of the serum transferrin receptor (sTfR) in distinguishing IDA (iron deficiency anemia) from ACD (anemia of chronic disease) as compared to conventional laboratory tests of iron metabolism, especially serum ferritin. In a prospective study, 34 patients with IDA and 38 patients with ACD (a chronic disorder in 23 and an acute infection in 15) were evaluated using iron status tests including serum transferrin receptor assay. The iron stores were assessed by bone marrow examination. sTfR levels were elevated (>28.1 nmol/L) in 68% of the IDA patients but also in 43% of the patients with ACD-chronic inflammation and 33% with ACD-acute infection. Serum ferritin was the best test to differentiate IDA from ACD patients. We conclude that serum ferritin is a more sensitive and specific parameter than the sTfR assay to predict the bone marrow iron status in an elderly anemic population. Am. J. Hematol. 69:1-6, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.