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J Intern Med. 1989 Nov;226(5):349-55.

Iron deficiency: definition and diagnosis.

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Department of Medicine, Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas City 66103.


There has been a continuous refinement over the past several decades of methods to detect iron deficiency and assess its magnitude. The optimal combination of measurements differs for clinical and epidemiological assessment. Clinically, the major problem is to distinguish true iron deficiency from other causes of iron-deficient erythropoiesis, such as the anaemia of chronic disease. Epidemiologically, techniques that provide quantified estimates of body iron are preferable. For both purposes, the serum ferritin is the focal point of the laboratory detection of iron deficiency. Serum ferritin measurements provide a reliable index of body iron stores in healthy individuals, a cost-effective method of screening for iron deficiency, and a useful alternative to bone marrow examinations in the evaluation of anaemic patients. Preliminary studies indicate that measurement of the serum transferrin receptor may be the most reliable way to assess deficits in tissue iron supply.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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