Diagnosis and management of iron deficiency anaemia: a clinical update

Med J Aust. 2010 Nov 1;193(9):525-32. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2010.tb04038.x.


Iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) remains prevalent in Australia and worldwide, especially among high-risk groups. IDA may be effectively diagnosed in most cases by full blood examination and serum ferritin level. Serum iron levels should not be used to diagnose iron deficiency. Although iron deficiency may be due to physiological demands in growing children, adolescents and pregnant women, the underlying cause(s) should be sought. Patients without a clear physiological explanation for iron deficiency (especially men and postmenopausal women) should be evaluated by gastroscopy/colonoscopy to exclude a source of gastrointestinal bleeding, particularly a malignant lesion. Patients with IDA should be assessed for coeliac disease. Oral iron therapy, in appropriate doses and for a sufficient duration, is an effective first-line strategy for most patients. In selected patients for whom intravenous (IV) iron therapy is indicated, current formulations can be safely administered in outpatient treatment centres and are relatively inexpensive. Red cell transfusion is inappropriate therapy for IDA unless an immediate increase in oxygen delivery is required, such as when the patient is experiencing end-organ compromise (eg, angina pectoris or cardiac failure), or IDA is complicated by serious, acute ongoing bleeding. Consensus methods for administration of available IV iron products are needed to improve the utilisation of these formulations in Australia and reduce inappropriate transfusion. New-generation IV products, supported by high-quality evidence of safety and efficacy, may facilitate rapid administration of higher doses of iron, and may make it easier to integrate IV iron replacement into routine care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / complications
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / diagnosis*
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / etiology
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / therapy*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Bone Marrow / metabolism
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Iron Compounds / administration & dosage
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Receptors, Transferrin / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • Iron Compounds
  • Receptors, Transferrin
  • Ferritins
  • Iron