Iron deficiency and anaemia in bariatric surgical patients: causes, diagnosis and proper management

Nutr Hosp. 2009 Nov-Dec;24(6):640-54.


Obesity-induced chronic inflammation leads to activation of the immune system that causes alterations of iron homeostasis including hypoferraemia, iron-restricted erythropoiesis, and finally mild-to-moderate anaemia. Thus, preoperative anaemia and iron deficiency are common among obese patients scheduled for bariatric surgery (BS). Assessment of patients should include a complete haematological and biochemical laboratory work-up, including measurement of iron stores, vitamin B12 and folate. In addition, gastrointestinal evaluation is recommended for most patients with iron-deficiency anaemia. On the other hand, BS is a long-lasting inflammatory stimulus in itself and entails a reduction of the gastric capacity and/or exclusion from the gastrointestinal tract which impair nutrients absorption, including dietary iron. Chronic gastrointestinal blood loss and iron-losingenteropathy may also contribute to iron deficiency after BS. Perioperative anaemia has been linked to increased postoperative morbidity and mortality and decreased quality of life after major surgery, whereas treatment of perioperative anaemia, and even haematinic deficiency without anaemia, has been shown to improve patient outcomes and quality of life. However, long-term follow-up data in regard to prevalence, severity, and causes of anaemia after BS are mostly absent. Iron supplements should be administered to patients after BS, but compliance with oral iron is no good. In addition, once iron deficiency has developed, it may prove refractory to oral treatment. In these situations, IV iron (which can circumvent the iron blockade at enterocytes and macrophages) has emerged as a safe and effective alternative for perioperative anaemia management. Monitoring should continue indefinitely even after the initial iron repletion and anaemia resolution, and maintenance IV iron treatment should be provided as required. New IV preparations, such ferric carboxymaltose, are safe, easy to use and up to 1000 mg can be given in a single session, thus providing an excellent tool to avoid or treat iron deficiency in this patient population.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / metabolism
  • Administration, Oral
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / diagnosis
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / drug therapy
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / etiology*
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / physiopathology
  • Bariatric Surgery* / adverse effects
  • Drug Resistance
  • Female
  • Ferric Compounds / administration & dosage
  • Ferric Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Iron / administration & dosage
  • Iron / pharmacokinetics
  • Iron / therapeutic use
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / etiology
  • Maltose / administration & dosage
  • Maltose / analogs & derivatives
  • Maltose / therapeutic use
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / immunology
  • Obesity / surgery
  • Peptic Ulcer Hemorrhage / complications
  • Postgastrectomy Syndromes / etiology
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Preoperative Care


  • Adipokines
  • Ferric Compounds
  • ferric carboxymaltose
  • Maltose
  • Iron