Management of iron deficiency anemia in inflammatory bowel disease - a practical approach

Ann Gastroenterol. 2013;26(2):104-113.


Although anemia is the most common systemic manifestation of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), among the broad spectrum of extraintestinal disease complications encountered in IBD, including arthritis and osteopathy, it has generally received little consideration. However, not only in terms of frequency, but also with regard to its potential effect on hospitalization rates and on the quality of life and work, anemia is indeed a significant and costly complication of IBD. Anemia is multifactorial in nature, the most prevalent etiological forms being iron deficiency anemia (IDA) and anemia of chronic disease. In a condition associated with inflammation, such as IBD, the determination of iron status using common biochemical parameters alone is inadequate. A more accurate assessment may be attained using new iron indices including reticulocyte hemoglobin content, percentage of hypochromic red cells or zinc protoporphyrin. While oral iron supplementation has traditionally been a mainstay of IDA treatment, it has also been linked to extensive gastrointestinal side effects and possible disease exacerbation. However, many physicians are still reluctant to administer iron intravenously, despite the wide availability of a variety of new IV preparations with improved safety profiles, and despite the recommendations of international expert guidelines. This article discusses improved diagnostic and therapeutic strategies based on new clinical insights into the regulation of iron homeostasis.

Keywords: Inflammatory bowel disease; anemia; extraintestinal manifestations; iron deficiency; iron supplementation.

Publication types

  • Review