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The diagnosis of borderline iron deficiency: Results of a therapeutic trial

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Margaret Wright, Dr Kathryn Parkinson


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Background: Iron deficiency is common in early childhood and has been associated with developmental delay. It is not known how reliably markers of iron deficiency identify true iron deficiency, defined as a therapeutic response to oral iron. Methods: The subjects were members of the Millennium Baby Study cohort. At age 13 months a venous blood sample was taken for mean cell volume (MCV), haemoglobin, mean cell haemoglobin (MCH), ferritin, and zinc protoporphyrin (ZPP). Children with abnormal values were offered treatment with oral iron and dietary modification, and re-sampled after 3 months. Results: Samples were obtained for 462 children. All markers were moderately correlated with each other except ferritin. Treatment was offered to 147 (32%) children with at least one abnormal value, of whom 126 (86%) were re-sampled. Children with a haemoglobin or an MCH below the screening cut off, or with abnormal values for two or more of the remaining three measures, showed a large therapeutic response to iron, but isolated abnormalities of MCV, ZPP, or ferritin were not consistently associated with a response. Of the screened population 13% could be defined as iron deficient (abnormal haemoglobin or MCH, or abnormal levels of two or more of the remaining three markers), but this was not strongly associated with any dietary, demographic, or anthropometric characteristic. Conclusions: Low total or mean cell haemoglobin in isolation is a specific marker of iron deficiency, but other markers are only predictive when found in combination with other abnormal values.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wright CM, Kelly J, Trail A, Parkinson KN, Summerfield G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Archives of Disease in Childhood

Year: 2004

Volume: 89

Issue: 11

Pages: 1028-1031

ISSN (print): 0003-9888

ISSN (electronic): 1468-2044

Publisher: BMJ Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1136/adc.2003.047407

PubMed id: 15499056


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