Microcytosis, anisocytosis and the red cell indices in iron deficiency

Br J Haematol. 1976 Dec;34(4):589-97. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2141.1976.tb03605.x.


Red cell volume distribution curves have been used to measure microcytosis and anisocytosis in normal subjects, blood donors and patients with iron deficiency anaemia. These measurements were more sensitive than the conventional red cell indices for detecting blood donors with a low transferrin saturation. Three stages are suggested as iron deficiency progressively interferes with haemopoietic function. Anisocytosis and an increased percentage of microcytic cells are the first haematological abnormalities to occur and at this stage haemoglobin concentration is usually normal and trasferrin saturation less than 32%. At the second stage the MCV and MCH decline, haemoglobin concentration is generally sub-normal, though not below 9 g/dl, and transferrin saturation is usually below 16%. The final stage of iron deficiency is associated with a low MCHC, a haemoglobin concentration below 9 g/dl and a transferrin saturation of less than 16%.

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Hypochromic / blood*
  • Binding Sites
  • Blood Donors
  • Erythrocytes, Abnormal / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Iron / blood
  • Male
  • Transferrin / blood


  • Hemoglobins
  • Transferrin
  • Iron