The anemia of heart failure

Acta Haematol. 2009;122(2-3):109-19. doi: 10.1159/000243795. Epub 2009 Nov 10.


Anemia is common in congestive heart failure (CHF) and is associated with an increased mortality and morbidity. The most likely causes of anemia are chronic kidney disease (CKD) and excessive cytokine production, both of which can cause depression of erythropoietin (EPO) production and bone marrow activity. The cytokines also induce iron deficiency by both reducing gastrointestinal iron absorption and iron release from iron stores located in the macrophages and hepatocytes. Iron deficiency can cause thrombocytosis which might also contribute to cardiovascular complications in both CHF and CKD and is partially reversible with iron treatment. Thus attempts to control this anemia will have to consider both the use of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESA), such as EPO, as well as oral and, probably more importantly, intravenous (IV) iron. The many studies on anemia in CHF patients treated with ESA and oral or IV iron, and even with IV iron without ESA have up to now shown a quite consistent positive effect on hospitalization, fatigue, shortness of breath, quality of life, exercise capacity, and beta-natriuretic peptide reduction, in the absence of increased cardiovascular damage related to the therapy. Adequately powered long-term placebo-controlled studies of ESA and/or IV iron are currently being carried out and their results are eagerly awaited.

MeSH terms

  • Anemia / complications*
  • Anemia / drug therapy
  • Erythropoietin / analogs & derivatives
  • Erythropoietin / therapeutic use
  • Heart Failure / complications*
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Thrombocytosis / complications


  • Hemoglobins
  • Erythropoietin