Screening for iron overload using transferrin saturation

Acta Med Scand. 1984;215(2):105-12. doi: 10.1111/j.0954-6820.1984.tb04979.x.


People with parenchymal iron overload exhibit an elevated serum iron concentration and a raised transferrin (TIBC) saturation early in the course of the disease. They can therefore be detected by simple laboratory tests before organ damage has occurred. In this study running for 2 months, 10512 samples from approximately 8750 patients and blood donors were examined in a county hospital in Central Sweden. Abnormal TIBC saturation (greater than 70%) was found in 1.7% of the samples. This abnormality was caused by physiological fluctuations in serum iron in 44%, liver disease in 22%, blood disorder in 10%, iron therapy in 10.5% and parenchymal iron overload in 11.5%. The diagnosis of iron overload was confirmed by measuring the serum ferritin concentration and by performing the desferrioxamine test, liver biopsy, quantitative phlebotomy and family studies including HLA typing. We found a prevalence of iron overload of 0.24%. This figure is almost certainly too low because some affected patients were probably lost because of TIBC desaturation induced by inflammatory conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Hemochromatosis / blood*
  • Hemochromatosis / epidemiology
  • Hemochromatosis / genetics
  • Humans
  • Iron / blood*
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Sweden
  • Transferrin / blood*


  • Transferrin
  • Iron