Diagnosis and management of iron-induced heart disease in Cooley's anemia

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1998 Jun 30;850:242-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1998.tb10481.x.


Patients with homozygous beta-thalassemia are chronically transfused and, if not assiduously chelated, are at risk for cardiac dysfunction. Available data suggest that even in optimally chelated patients, cardiac pathology is abnormal secondary to iron deposition, fibrosis, hypertrophy, and the structural effects of chronic anemia. Evidence of myopericarditis may also be found. Cardiac performance is usually only subtly affected, primarily with diastolic abnormalities not routinely detected on echocardiograms or nuclear scan. In poorly chelated patients, severe heart failure occurs and is easily predictable but invariably fatal, despite treatment with diuretics, vasodilators, inotropes, and antiarrhythmics. Based on successful prevention of heart failure with ACE inhibitors in other forms of cardiomyopathy, we suggest multicenter trials to explore methods to stabilize cardiac function in patients at risk for iron-induced heart disease. Long-term adverse effects of iron deposition, diastolic dysfunction, and abnormal hormone regulation need to be quantitated in patients reaching their third and fourth decades when the potential for ischemic cardiac disease could compound cardiac dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Hemolytic / etiology
  • Anemia, Hemolytic / physiopathology
  • Cardiomyopathies / etiology
  • Cardiomyopathies / physiopathology
  • Heart Diseases / etiology*
  • Heart Diseases / physiopathology
  • Heart Diseases / therapy*
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Myocarditis / etiology
  • Myocarditis / physiopathology
  • Pericarditis / etiology
  • Pericarditis / physiopathology
  • beta-Thalassemia / complications*
  • beta-Thalassemia / metabolism
  • beta-Thalassemia / therapy*


  • Iron