The role of erythropoiesis stimulating agents and intravenous (IV) iron in the cardio renal anemia syndrome

Heart Fail Rev. 2011 Nov;16(6):609-14. doi: 10.1007/s10741-010-9194-2.


Anemia is common in Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) and is associated with an increased mortality, morbidity and progressive renal failure. The most common causes of the anemia in CHF are (1) the associated Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), which causes depression of erythropoietin (EPO) production in the kidney, and (2) excessive cytokine production in CHF, which can cause both depression of erythropoietin production in the kidney and depression of erythropoietin response in the bone marrow. The cytokines can also induce iron deficiency by increasing hepcidin production from the liver, which both reduces gastrointestinal iron absorption and reduces iron release from iron stores located in the macrophages and hepatocytes. It appears that iron deficiency is very common in CHF and is rarely recognized or treated. The iron deficiency can cause a thrombocytosis that might contribute to cardiovascular complications in both CHF and CKD and is reversible with iron treatment. Thus, attempts to control this anemia in CHF will have to take into consideration both the use of both Erythropoiesis Stimulating Agents (ESA) such as EPO and oral and, probably more importantly, intravenous (IV) iron. Many studies of anemia in CHF with ESA and oral or IV iron and even with IV iron without ESA have shown a positive effect on hospitalization, New York Heart Association functional class, cardiac and renal function, quality of life, exercise capacity and reduced Beta Natriuretic Peptide and have not demonstrated an increase in cardiovascular damage related to the therapy. However, adequately powered long-term placebo-controlled studies of ESA and of IV iron in CHF are still needed and are currently being carried out.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia* / drug therapy
  • Anemia* / metabolism
  • Anemia* / physiopathology
  • Bone Marrow / drug effects*
  • Bone Marrow / metabolism
  • Bone Marrow / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects*
  • Cardiovascular System / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular System / physiopathology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Erythropoietin / deficiency
  • Heart Failure / drug therapy
  • Heart Failure / metabolism
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Hematinics* / administration & dosage
  • Hematinics* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Iron* / administration & dosage
  • Iron* / deficiency
  • Kidney / drug effects*
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kidney / physiopathology
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / drug therapy
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / metabolism
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Syndrome
  • Trace Elements / administration & dosage
  • Trace Elements / deficiency


  • Hematinics
  • Trace Elements
  • Erythropoietin
  • Iron