Transferrin saturation versus reticulocyte hemoglobin content for iron deficiency in Japanese hemodialysis patients

Kidney Int. 2003 Mar;63(3):1086-93. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1755.2003.00826.x.


Background: Iron deficiency is a frequent cause of recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEPO)-resistant anemia in hemodialysis patients. Both reticulocyte hemoglobin content (CHr) and transferrin saturation (TSAT) have been proposed as markers of iron deficiency, but it is unclear which parameter is superior.

Methods: To compare the efficacy of CHr and TSAT as an indicator for treatment of iron deficiency, we conducted a single-center, open-label, prospective, randomized, controlled trial at the Kidney Center in Shinraku-en Hospital of 197 Japanese patients on chronic hemodialysis. After 4 weeks of run-in period during which iron supplementation was suspended, 100 patients who were randomized to the CHr group received 240 mg iron colloid intravenously over 2 weeks when CHr less than 32.5 pg, and 97 patients who were randomized to the TSAT group received the same doses of iron colloid when TSAT less than 20%. We measured the rhEPO dose needed to maintain prestudy hematocrit levels, hematocrit, CHr, TSAT, serum ferritin, percentage of hypochromic red blood cells, and total iron administered.

Results: Sixteen weeks later, 94 patients in the CHr group and 89 patients in the TSAT group finished the study. The doses of rhEPO required decreased by 35.8% (4081 to 2629 U/week, P < 0.005) in the TSAT group, but not significantly in the CHr group (4121 to 3606 U/week). Although CHr increased promptly after the iron administration in both groups, TSAT increased only in the TSAT group.

Conclusions: Although CHr reflects the iron status more sensitively, TSAT is a better clinical marker for iron supplementation therapy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / blood
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / diagnosis*
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / drug therapy
  • Biomarkers
  • Erythropoietin / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Hematocrit
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Iron / administration & dosage
  • Japan
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / blood
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • Reticulocytes / metabolism*
  • Transferrin / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Hemoglobins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Transferrin
  • Erythropoietin
  • Iron