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J Clin Lab Anal. 2002;16(5):237-45.

Reference distributions for serum iron and transferrin saturation: a practical, simple, and clinically relevant approach in a large cohort.

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Foundation for Blood Research, Scarborough, Maine 04070-0190, USA.


The principal considerations driving iron status evaluation are clinical concern for anemia and the possibility of iron-storage disease. Most often, the circulating levels of transferrin (or total iron binding capacity) and serum iron are measured and the percentage of transferrin saturation (TSAT) is then computed. Optimally, reference ranges for these analytes should exclude the effects of the acute phase response, nutritional status, estrogen effect, specific genetic disorders, liver disease, and blood transfusion. The current study reports reference ranges for serum iron and TSAT within a cohort of over 55,000 Caucasians from northern New England, tested in our laboratory between 1994 and 1999. Measurements were standardized against serum reference material (SRM) 937 (for iron) and certified reference material (CRM) 470 (also called reference preparation for proteins in human serum (RPPHS)) (for transferrin), and analyzed using a previously published approach. Individual cases with evidence of inflammation (C-reactive protein > or =10 mg/L), or iron overload (TSAT >80% for males and >70% for females) or serum iron values <5 micro mol/L, were removed. Among the referent individuals, iron and TSAT levels rose slightly until the teen years, at which time levels in males increased while those in females remained essentially constant. Between 20 and 70 years of age, males had 10-15% higher iron levels and 15-20% higher TSAT levels than females. When values were expressed as multiples of the age- and gender-specific median levels, the serum iron and TSAT observations fit log-Gaussian distributions reasonably well from the 20th to 99th centile, and the 10th to the 99th centile, respectively. After normalization, the Gaussian parameters can be used to assign a corresponding centile to an individual's measurement, simplifying interpretation. These data provide new and more detailed reference ranges for serum iron and TSAT.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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