Long-term follow-up of patients with iron deficiency anaemia after a negative gastrointestinal evaluation

Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009 Aug;21(8):872-6. doi: 10.1097/MEG.0b013e328321836c.


Objectives: Our aim was to determine whether patients who have had a negative gastrointestinal evaluation (i.e. oesophagogastroduodenoscopy and a colonic examination) for iron deficiency anaemia are subsequently found to have recurrent anaemia or significant pathology.

Methods: From a prospectively entered endoscopy database, we identified a cohort of patients who had negative upper and lower gastrointestinal (GI) investigations for iron deficiency anaemia. We carried out a retrospective chart review of these patients to determine their outcome after a GI evaluation. In particular, we wished to determine the proportion of patients who had recurrent anaemia, became transfusion dependent or were found to have significant pathology.

Results: Sixty-nine patients, with an average age of 65.8 years (range 29-87), were followed up for a median of 5 years and 10 months (range 7-109). In 57 patients (83%), the anaemia resolved after the initial treatment period. Fifteen patients (22%) died during the follow-up period, two from a GI cancer and 13 from non-GI-related causes. Six patients (9%) developed persistent anaemia severe enough to require recurrent blood or iron transfusions. Seventeen patients (25%) had a transient recurrent anaemia and four (6%) were diagnosed with GI malignancies during the follow-up.

Conclusion: For the majority of patients with the iron deficiency anaemia and a negative GI evaluation the outcome is favourable, although a proportion (6%) may subsequently be found to have significant GI pathology. We believe that this number could be minimized by the use of colonoscopy rather than barium enema. In addition, small bowel investigations should not be limited to those who are transfusion dependent, as is currently recommended.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / diagnosis*
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / epidemiology
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / pathology
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Endoscopy, Gastrointestinal / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Audit
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies