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Ann Intern Med. 1998 Dec 1;129(11):954-61.

Prevalence of hereditary hemochromatosis in 16031 primary care patients.

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Mary M. Gooley Hemophilia Center, Inc., Rochester General Hospital, and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, New York 14621, USA.



Despite evidence from screening studies in northern European populations, the prevalence of hemochromatosis in primary care populations in the United States remains speculative.


To establish the feasibility of screening for hemochromatosis and to estimate the prevalence of hemochromatosis in a large primary care population.


Cross-sectional prevalence study.


22 primary care practices in the Rochester, New York, area.


16031 ambulatory patients without a previous diagnosis of hemochromatosis.


Serum transferrin saturation screening tests were offered to all adult patients in participating primary care practices.


Patients with a serum transferrin saturation of 45% or more on initial testing had a serum transferrin saturation test done under fasting conditions and had serum ferritin levels measured. Those who had a fasting serum transferrin saturation of 55% or more and a serum ferritin level of 200 microg/L or more with no other apparent cause were presumed to have hemochromatosis and were offered liver biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.


25 patients had biopsy-proven hemochromatosis; 22 patients met the clinical criteria for hemochromatosis but declined liver biopsy and were classified as having clinically proven hemochromatosis; and 23 patients had a serum transferrin saturation of 55% or more with no identifiable cause, indicating probable hemochromatosis. The prevalence of clinically proven and biopsy-proven hemochromatosis combined was 4.5 per 1000 (95% CI, 3.3 to 5.8 per 1000) in the total sample and 5.4 per 1000 (CI, 4.0 to 7.1 per 1000) in white persons. The prevalence was higher in men than in women (ratio, 1.8:1).


Hemochromatosis is relatively common among white persons. Routine screening of white persons for hemochromatosis should be considered by primary care physicians.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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