Author(s): Valberg LS
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Abstract In healthy persons the plasma ferritin concentration is a sensitive index of the size of body iron stores. It has been successfully applied to large-scale surveys of the iron status of populations. It has also proved useful in the assessment of clinical disorders of iron metabolism. A low plasma ferritin level has a high predictive value for the diagnosis of uncomplicated iron deficiency anemia. It is of less value, however, in anemia associated with infection, chronic inflammatory disorders, liver disease and malignant hematologic diseases, for which a low level indicates iron deficiency and a high level excludes it, but intermediate levels are not diagnostic. Measuring the plasma ferritin concentration is also useful for the detection of excess body iron, particularly in idiopathic hemochromatosis, but again it lacks specificity in the presence of active hepatocellular disease. If iron overload is suspected in these circumstances determination of the iron content of a percutaneous liver biopsy specimen is required. In families with idiopathic hemochromatosis the combined determination of the plasma ferritin concentration and the transferrin saturation is a sufficient screen to identify affected relatives; however, estimation of the hepatic iron concentration is required to establish the diagnosis.
This article was published in Can Med Assoc J
and referenced in Anatomy & Physiology: Current Research