Objectives: We prospectively investigated the causes of anemia in patients with advanced congestive heart failure (CHF).
Background: Anemia is common in patients with advanced CHF, and its etiology is generally considered to be multifactorial. However, despite its importance, precise information is lacking regarding the prevalence of putative etiologic factors.
Methods: Patients who were hospitalized for decompensated advanced CHF and who were stabilized after their initial treatment underwent evaluation of "clinically significant" anemia, defined as a hemoglobin content <12 g/dl for men and <11.5 g/dl for women. Patients with a serum creatinine concentration >3 mg/dl or patients with concurrent diseases that are known to cause anemia were not included. The initial evaluation included measurements of vitamin B(12), folic acid, thyroid-stimulating hormone, erythropoietin, lactate dehydrogenase, Coombs test, multiple fecal occult tests, and bone marrow aspiration. Patients without diagnosis by these methods underwent red cell mass measurement with (51)Cr assay.
Results: The mean age of the 37 patients was 57.9 +/- 10.9 years and mean left ventricular ejection fraction 22.5 +/- 5.9%. Iron deficiency anemia was confirmed by bone marrow aspiration in 27 patients (73%), 2 patients (5.4%) had dilutional anemia, and 1 patient (2.7%) had drug-induced anemia. No specific cause was identified in 7 patients (18.9%) who were considered to have "anemia of chronic disease." Serum ferritin for the iron-deficient patients was not a reliable marker of iron deficiency in this population.
Conclusions: In this group of patients, iron deficiency was the most common cause of anemia. The iron status of patients with end-stage chronic CHF should be thoroughly evaluated and corrected before considering other therapeutic interventions.