Low serum ferritin levels are misleading for detecting cardiac iron overload and increase the risk of cardiomyopathy in thalassemia patients. The importance of cardiac iron overload monitoring using magnetic resonance imaging T2 and T2*

Hemoglobin. 2006;30(2):219-27. doi: 10.1080/03630260600642542.


The incidence of cardiomyopathy was monitored in a 6-year follow-up study involving 56 transfused thalassemia patients treated with deferoxamine (DFO), deferiprone (L1) or their combination. During this period, five female patients on regular subcutaneous or intravenous DFO presented with cardiac complications. Three patients suffered congestive heart failure and the other two arrhythmias. Four of the five patients maintained serum ferritin levels of about 1 mg/L or below and the fifth about 1.5 mg/L for several years prior to the cardiomyopathy. Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) T2* and T2 was performed in four patients after the cardiomyopathy, identifying the presence of moderate-to-heavy siderosis. The treatment of the five patients has since changed, involving mainly the use of L1. Low serum ferritin levels appear to be misleading for detecting cardiac iron overload and this may increase the risk of cardiomyopathy. The MRI T2 and T2* relaxation time measurements are a more accurate method of detecting cardiac iron overload. Chelation therapy using L1 or appropriate L1/DFO combinations can reduce cardiac iron overload and the mortality rate in thalassemia patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / drug therapy
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / etiology
  • Cardiomyopathies / blood
  • Cardiomyopathies / diagnosis*
  • Cardiomyopathies / pathology
  • Chelation Therapy
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Deferiprone
  • Deferoxamine / administration & dosage
  • Deferoxamine / therapeutic use
  • False Negative Reactions
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood*
  • Heart Failure / drug therapy
  • Heart Failure / etiology
  • Hemosiderosis / blood
  • Hemosiderosis / diagnosis*
  • Hemosiderosis / pathology
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Infusions, Parenteral
  • Iron Chelating Agents / administration & dosage
  • Iron Chelating Agents / therapeutic use
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Pyridones / therapeutic use
  • Risk
  • Subcutaneous Tissue
  • Thalassemia / blood*
  • Thalassemia / complications
  • Thalassemia / therapy
  • Transfusion Reaction


  • Iron Chelating Agents
  • Pyridones
  • Deferiprone
  • Ferritins
  • Deferoxamine