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Clin Chim Acta. 1997 Mar 18;259(1-2):3-23.

The laboratory assessment of iron status--an update.

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Department of Haematology, University of Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff, UK.


The description by Ramsay in 1957 of a practical way of determining the total iron binding capacity of serum (a measure of transferrin concentration) provided a diagnostic test for both iron deficiency and iron overload. Since 1957 the introduction of the assay for serum ferritin (in 1972) has made it possible to assess the levels of storage iron in normal subjects and assays for free erythrocyte protoporphyrin and the circulating transferrin receptor methods to evaluate iron supply for erythropoiesis. In 1957 iron metabolism in man was already well understood but its evaluation relied on measurement of tissue iron concentrations and the use of radioisotopes of iron to measure rates of erythropoiesis. The evaluation can now be carried out using the various blood assays along with the measurement of haemoglobin concentration but interpretation of the measurements in disease still requires an understanding of the way in which these measures are influenced by pathological processes.

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