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Nephron. 2002 Sep;92(1):32-5.

A comparison between the soluble transferrin receptor, transferrin saturation and serum ferritin as markers of iron state in hemodialysis patients.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital Maastricht, The Netherlands.


An adequate iron management is important in the treatment of anemia and in hemodialysis (HD) patients. Serum ferritin and transferrin saturation (TS) may be influenced by the presence of inflammation. Recently, the soluble transferrin receptor (s-TfR) has been advocated as a parameter of iron status in HD patients. The aim of the present study was to assess firstly the relation between serum ferritin, TS, and s-TfR in HD patients and to predict their agreement (assessed by kappa) in the diagnosis of iron deficiency, and, secondly, to assess the influence of inflammation on the relation between the parameters of iron state. Iron deficiency by either marker was respectively defined as ferritin <100 microg/l, TS <20%, or s-TfR >2.4 microg/ml. In the overall group of patients, TS and s-TfR were significantly related (r = -0.38), whereas s-TfR and serum ferritin were not. Both serum ferritin and TS were related to CRP (r = 0.50 and -0.34; p < 0.05), whereas s-TfR was not. The kappa value for agreement between serum ferritin and TS in the diagnosis of iron deficiency was 0.24 (p = 0.07), 0.12 (p = NS) for the agreement between TS and s-TfR and 0 for that between serum ferritin and s-TfR. In patients with CRP levels <or=2 mg/l (n = 16), the relation between parameters of iron state did not improve. Concluding, a large disagreement is observed between ferritin, TS and sTfR as markers of iron deficiency in HD patients, which appears to be only partly explained by the effect of inflammation.

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