Introduction: Although clinical use of recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO) since 1989 has improved anemia in most end-stage renal disease patients, there are still many hemodialysis patients unable to maintain an adequate hematocrit (HCT) without large doses of rHuEPO. This suggests that anemia is not solely a consequence of rHuEPO deficiency, but may be due to other factors including functional iron deficiency. Since the optimal prescription for iron replacement is not yet known, we evaluated the effect of intravenous iron dextran (IVFe) infusion on serum ferritin (SFer) concentration and rHuEPO dose. Our objective was to raise and maintain serum ferritin concentrations to 2 different levels above the National Kidney Foundation Dialysis Outcome Quality Initiative standard of 100 ng/ml to determine whether, and by what degree rHuEPO dose could be lowered.
Methods: HD patients on i.v. rHuEPO with a SFer concentration > or = 70 ng/ml and an HCT of < or = 33% were enrolled. Subjects were divided as follows: Group 1: target SFer of 200 ng/ml, Group 2: target SFer of 400 ng/ml. Each subject below the target level received IVFe in up to 10 divided doses during consecutive dialysis sessions as needed to reach the target. HCT was maintained between 32.5% and 36% by adjusting rHuEPO dosage.
Results: Mean SFer concentration at the study conclusion in Group 1: 261 ng/ml; Group 2: 387 ng/ml. The mean decrease in rHuEPO dose for Group 1 was 31 U/kg body weight/week (250 - 219 U/kg bw/wk) while in Group 2 it was 154 U/kg body weight/week (312 - 158 U/kg bw/wk) (p < 0.001). There was no difference in HCT between groups. Our results suggest that higher target serum ferritin concentrations can be well tolerated and lower rHuEPO requirements.