Iron overload: consequences, assessment, and monitoring

Hemoglobin. 2009;33 Suppl 1:S46-57. doi: 10.3109/03630260903346676.


In patients suffering from transfusion-dependent anemia, excess iron secondary to regular transfusions cannot be physiologically excreted. This leads to a state of chronic iron overload with iron accumulating in the liver, heart, and endocrine organs, and ultimately results in significant morbidity and mortality. Historically, iron overload was assessed through measurement of serum ferritin or direct determination of liver iron concentration (LIC) by means of biopsy. Although both correlate well with iron overload severity, several limitations pertinent to both are of concern. This has led to the identification of novel noninvasive iron assessment measures, namely magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) R2 and T2*. Moreover, investigations of other potential indices like nontransferrin-bound iron (NTBI) and labile plasma iron (LPI) are yielding promising results. Optimal iron overload assessment and monitoring is a key element in the development of improved strategies of iron chelation therapy that can be tailored to meet the patient's specific needs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chelation Therapy
  • Humans
  • Iron / analysis
  • Iron Overload / complications
  • Iron Overload / diagnosis*
  • Iron Overload / drug therapy
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Iron