Diagnosing and preventing iron overload
Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
Faculty of Health Sciences
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Absolute or functional iron (Fe) deﬁciency is an important determinant of anemiain hemodialysis patients and parenteral Fe is routinely used to treat this condition in conjunction with erythropoiesis stimulating agents. While restoration of hemoglobin toward the target range is a good outcome of Fe replacement, it is well known that Fe overload and toxicity may be adverse consequences of this therapy. Dialysis clinical practice guidelines recommend tailoring Fe therapy based on transferrin saturation and serum ferritin levels. Unfortunately, serum Fe markers may not accurately reﬂect the amount of Fe in the body, because factors such as infections, inﬂammation, or malignancy can alter serum ferritin levels. Some recent trials in dialysis patients receiving high intravenous Fe doses have shown increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and studies using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in this population have shown excessive tissue liver iron content (LIC) suggesting Fe overload. While LIC measured by MRI correlates well with LIC quantitated by liver biopsy, it only represents a surrogate marker for total body Fe and its clinical relevance in dialysis patients in terms of mortality an d morbidity remains to be demonstrated. Nevertheless, these recent ﬁndings challenge the use of current serum Fe markers recommended by clinical guidelines to guide safe Fe therapy in dialysis patients. While not yet established for the routine screening of dialysis patients for Fe overload, MRI should be considered in patients who have received a high cumulative dose of intravenous Fe, or have long cumulative dialysis vintage. Further studies are needed to assess how MRI will alter management.