Evaluation of cardiac and hepatic iron overload in thalassemia major patients with T2* magnetic resonance imaging

Hematology. 2017 Sep;22(8):501-507. doi: 10.1080/10245332.2017.1292614. Epub 2017 Feb 20.


Objectives: Recent advancements have promoted the use of T2* magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the non-invasive detection of iron overload in various organs for thalassemia major patients. This study aims to determine the iron load in the heart and liver of patients with thalassemia major using T2* MRI and to evaluate its correlation with serum ferritin level and iron chelation therapy.

Methods: This cross-sectional study included 162 subjects diagnosed with thalassemia major, who were classified into acceptable, mild, moderate, or severe cardiac and hepatic iron overload following their T2* MRI results, respectively, and these were correlated to their serum ferritin levels and iron chelation therapy.

Results: The study found that 85.2% of the subjects had normal cardiac iron stores. In contrast, 70.4% of the subjects had severe liver iron overload. A significant but weak correlation (r = -0.28) was found between cardiac T2* MRI and serum ferritin, and a slightly more significant correlation (r = 0.37) was found between liver iron concentration (LIC) and serum ferritin.

Discussion: The findings of this study are consistent with several other studies, which show that patients generally manifest with liver iron overload prior to cardiac iron overload. Moreover, iron accumulation demonstrated by T2* MRI results also show a significant correlation to serum ferritin levels.

Conclusion: This is the first study of its kind conducted in Indonesia, which supports the fact that T2* MRI is undoubtedly valuable in the early detection of cardiac and hepatic iron overload in thalassemia major patients.

Keywords: T2* MRI; cardiac iron; hepatic iron; thalassemia major.

MeSH terms

  • Chelation Therapy
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Echocardiography
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Heart Function Tests
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Iron Overload / diagnosis*
  • Iron Overload / drug therapy
  • Iron Overload / etiology*
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Myocardium / metabolism*
  • Myocardium / pathology*
  • beta-Thalassemia / complications*


  • Ferritins
  • Iron