Iron deficiency anemia in chronic liver disease: etiopathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment

Authors Eleana Gkamprela, Melanie Deutsch, Dimitrios Pectasides.


Chronic liver disease is accompanied by multiple hematological abnormalities. Iron deficiency anemia is a frequent complication of advanced liver disease. The etiology is multifactorial, mostly due to chronic hemorrhage into the gastrointestinal tract. The diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia is very challenging, as simple laboratory methods, including serum iron, ferritin, transferrin saturation (Tsat), and mean corpuscular volume are affected by the liver disease itself or the cause of the disease, resulting in difficulty in the interpretation of the results. Several new parameters, such as red blood cell ferritin, serum transferrin receptor test and index, and hepcidin, have been studied for their utility in indicating true iron deficiency in combination with chronic liver disease. Once iron deficiency anemia is diagnosed, it should be treated with oral or parenteral iron as well as portal pressure reducing drugs. Blood transfusion is reserved for symptomatic anemia despite iron supplementation.

Keywords Iron deficiency anemia, homeostasis, hepcidin, ferritin, chronic liver disease, cirrhosis

Ann Gastroenterol 2017; 30 (4): 405-413

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