Are hematinic deficiencies the cause of anemia in chronic heart failure?

Am Heart J. 2004 May;147(5):924-30. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2003.11.007.


Background: Anemia in chronic heart failure (CHF) is common, varying in prevalence between 14.4% and 55%, and is more frequent in patients with more severe heart failure. Patients with CHF who have anemia have a poorer quality of life, higher hospital admission rates, and reduced exercise tolerance. We explored the relation between hematinic levels and hemoglobin (Hb) levels and exercise tolerance in a group of patients with CHF.

Methods: We analyzed data from 173 patients with left ventricular systolic dysfunction (LVSD), 123 patients with symptoms of heart failure, but preserved left ventricular (LV) systolic function ("diastolic dysfunction"), and 58 control subjects of similar age. Each underwent echocardiography, a 6-minute walk test, and blood tests for renal function and Hb and hematinic levels (vitamin B12, iron, and folate). We classified patients as having no anemia (Hb level >12.5 g/dL), mild anemia (Hb level from 11.5-12.5 g/dL), or moderate anemia (Hb level <11.5 g/dL).

Results: Of patients with LVSD, 16% had moderate anemia and 19% had mild anemia. Of patients with preserved LV function, 16% had moderate anemia and 17% had mild anemia. Four control subjects had a Hb level <12.5 g/dL. Of all patients, 6% were vitamin B12 deficient, 13% were iron deficient, and 8% were folate deficient. There was no difference between patients with LVSD and the diastolic dysfunction group. In patients with LVSDS, the average Hb level was lower in New York Heart Association class III than classes II and I. The distance walked in 6 minutes correlated with Hb level in both groups of patients with CHF (r = 0.29; P <.0001). Patients with anemia achieved a lower pVO2 (15.0 [2.3] vs 19.5 [4.4], P <.05). Peak oxygen consumption correlated with Hb level (r = 0.21, P <.05) in the patients, but not in the control subjects. In patients with anemia, the mean creatinine level was higher than in patients with a Hb level >12.5 g/dL, but there was no clear relationship with simple regression. Hematocrit level and mean corpuscular volume were not different in the patients with diastolic dysfunction, patients with LV dysfunction, or the control subjects. Hematocrit levels were not influenced by diuretic dose. Patients with anemia were not more likely to be hematinic deficient than patients without anemia.

Conclusions: Patients with symptoms and signs of CHF have a high prevalence of anemia (34%) whether they have LV dysfunction or diastolic dysfunction, but few patients have hematinic deficiency. Hemoglobin levels correlate with subjective and objective measures of severity and renal function.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anemia / etiology*
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / etiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chronic Disease
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Folic Acid / blood
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / complications*
  • Heart Failure / blood*
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Iron / blood
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / blood
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / physiopathology
  • Vitamin B 12 / blood
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / complications*


  • Ferritins
  • Folic Acid
  • Creatinine
  • Iron
  • Vitamin B 12