Iron deficiency anaemia in general practice: presentations and investigations

Br J Clin Pract. 1997 Mar;51(2):78-80.


Twenty-six patients over the age of 50 years with proven iron deficiency anaemia were identified, investigated and followed up in general practice over a five-year period. The anaemia was symptomatic in 50% of patients but only 20% had symptoms related to the gut. Faecal occult blood testing was positive in five patients only and negative tests occurred in three patients with significant disease, including one caecal carcinoma. All patients agreed to oesophagogastroduodenoscopy (OGD) and fibreoptic sigmoidoscopy carried out on the same occasion. In eight patients, significant abnormalities were found on OGD and in two patients on sigmoidoscopy. Four patients declined barium enema examinations, two of whom had significant OGD abnormalities. Barium enema examination of the other 22 patients showed polyposis of the colon and a caecal carcinoma and initially missed one carcinoma of the caecum which was found subsequently. The likelihood of finding significant disease in iron-deficient patients over 50 years of age is high and should be assumed to be due to blood loss into the gut. Investigation by OGD, sigmoidoscopy and barium enema in the first instance seems warranted and is a condition that can be safely managed by the GP.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / diagnosis
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / drug therapy
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / epidemiology*
  • Barium Sulfate
  • Endoscopy, Gastrointestinal
  • Enema
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iron Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sigmoidoscopy


  • Iron Compounds
  • Barium Sulfate