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Wound Repair Regen. 2020 Jan;28(1):33-38. doi: 10.1111/wrr.12769. Epub 2019 Oct 18.

Does localized iron loss in venous disease lead to systemic iron deficiency? A descriptive pilot study.

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Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, Cardiff, UK.
Welsh Wound Innovation Centre, Cardiff, UK.


Haemosiderin deposition in the legs of patients with venous leg ulcers is well established, and several theories suggest this stored iron has a role in disease pathophysiology. In this novel pilot study of patients with chronic venous leg ulcers, we aimed to establish the relationship between wound fluid iron levels, serum iron parameters and healing. Fifteen patients with venous ulcers were included in the study. Blood samples were taken for full blood count and iron studies, while simultaneously wound fluid was obtained from the wound surface using filter paper. Wound areas were measured at initial and 4 week (+/- 2 day) follow-up visits. We found a positive correlation between wound fluid and serum iron (correlation co-efficient 0.27) and those with the lowest wound fluid iron level were also anemic. No association was found between initial wound area and wound fluid iron level but the largest wound areas were found in patients with anemia. Only 38% of patients demonstrated a reduction in wound area during the 4 week study, and 80% of those were not anemic or iron deficient. Conversely in those patients whose wounds did not reduce in size 88% were anemic or iron deficient. These findings demonstrate a previously unrecognized phenomenon of systemic iron store depletion secondary to leaching out of the body in wound exudate. In addition, these results suggest a high prevalence of anemia in patients with chronic venous ulcers, though whether this is cause or effect requires further research. Our findings also suggest that patients with venous ulcers have a high prevalence of iron deficiency and anemia, which appears to be often undiagnosed, and that diagnostic criteria for iron deficiency in patients with chronic wounds need to be revised to reflect the effect of chronic inflammation on iron metabolism.


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