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Blood. 2004 Jul 1;104(1):34-9. Epub 2004 Feb 26.

Complications of beta-thalassemia major in North America.

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Children's Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Treatment of patients with beta-thalassemia major has improved dramatically during the past 40 years; however, the current clinical status of these patients remains poorly characterized. We performed a cross-sectional study of 342 patients in the Registry of the National Institutes of Health-sponsored Thalassemia Clinical Research Network. Evidence of hepatitis C exposure was present in 35% of tested patients, was associated with age, and had a rate of spontaneous viral clearance of 33%. Ferritin levels ranged from 147 to 11 010 ng/mL (median, 1696 ng/mL). Median hepatic iron content was 7.8 mg/g dry weight and 23% of patients had values of 15 mg/g dry weight or higher. No patients 15 years or younger and 5% of patients aged 16 to 24 years had heart disease requiring medication. Ten percent had cirrhosis on biopsy. Endocrinologic complications were common among adults. Seventy-four (22%) patients had recent implantable central venous access devices (CVADs) placed. Among 80 episodes of bacteremia in 38 patients, 90% were attributable to the CVAD. Among 330 patients who had received deferoxamine chelation therapy, 224 (68%) reported no complications. We conclude that hepatitis C, iron-related organ dysfunction, and complications of iron chelation therapy are strongly age-dependent in North American patients with beta-thalassemia.

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