High serum transferrin receptor level in anemia of chronic disorders indicates coexistent iron deficiency

Authors

  • Amar Das Gupta,

    Corresponding author
    1. Hematology Section, Department of Laboratory Medicine, P.D. Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre, National Health and Education Society, Mumbai, India
    • Department of Laboratory Medicine, P.D. Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Mumbai 400 016, India
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  • Alpana Abbi

    1. Hematology Section, Department of Laboratory Medicine, P.D. Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre, National Health and Education Society, Mumbai, India
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Abstract

Blood transferrin receptor (TR) level is largely determined by the quantum of erythropoiesis and by intracellular iron content of the cells of the erythroid lineage. Hence, a high serum TR level has been found to be useful in distinguishing iron deficiency anemia (IDA) from anemia of chronic disorders (ACD). In order to examine its potential role in the diagnosis of concomitant iron deficiency in ACD, we determined serum TR levels in 130 cases of ACD, in 25 cases of IDA, and in 40 normal adults. As expected, all patients of IDA had significantly higher serum TR levels compared to the normal subjects (4.2–19.2 μg/dL vs. 1.3–3.0 μg/dL) (P < 0.002). In 11/25 cases of IDA, the total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) was in the normal range although bone marrow iron store was absent and serum TR levels were high, thereby highlighting the superiority of TR level in the diagnosis of iron deficiency compared to TIBC. Although 54% (70/130) patients of ACD had normal or low serum TR levels (0.9–3.0 μg/dL) as expected, in 46% (60/130) of ACD patients, serum TR levels were high (3.2–11.0 μg/dL). Mean corpuscular volume, red cell distribution width, and transferrin saturation were significantly lower (P < 0.001) in the latter group of patients compared to the former, and these parameters resembled those in IDA patients. Also, serum iron was lower and TIBC was higher in this group of ACD patients compared to those with normal or low serum TR. All these features point to an “IDA-like” profile of ACD patients with high TR and support the possibility of co-existent iron deficiency in this subgroup of ACD patients. In light of these observations it would be prudent to treat ACD patients with high serum TR levels with iron replacement therapy. Am. J. Hematol. 72:158–161, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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