About iron overload from blood transfusion
If you get regular blood transfusions, you may be getting too much iron in your body.
Even if years have passed between your transfusions, the risk is the same. This is because when extra iron from transfusions enters the body, it stays there—whether it entered the body yesterday, a month ago or 10 years ago. Your body doesn't have a natural way of getting rid of excess iron. So extra iron gets stored in the liver, heart and other organs.
As there is no natural way to remove excess iron from the body, the level of the iron storage protein in the serum—the serum ferritin—rises. Chronic iron overload occurs when the serum ferritin level consistently rises above 1,000 μg/L. The normal level of serum ferritin ranges from 12-300 μg/L for men and 12-150 μg/L for women. As few as 20 transfusions in a lifetime (10 in children) can lead to chronic iron overload, which is associated with iron toxicity. The consequences of iron toxicity are organ dysfunction and organ damage with often fatal outcomes.
Diagnosis of iron overload from blood transfusion
A serum ferritin test is a simple blood test that measures the amount of iron in your blood. It's the fastest and easiest way to test for iron overload. If you have had 10 or more transfusions in your lifetime, ask your doctor to give you a serum ferritin test. If your serum ferritin is more than 1,000 mcg/L, you may have iron overload. Discuss treatment with your doctor to determine which one is best for you.
Treatment of iron overload from blood transfusion
If you have iron overload, you may need treatment for as long as you receive transfusions. Iron chelation drug therapy has been shown to benefit patients who have transfusion-dependent anemias.
The goals of iron chelation therapy are to remove the amount of iron administered in transfusions and to prevent the accumulation of iron reaching harmful levels. Chelation therapy helps eliminate iron from the body, primarily through the feces. Some studies show that patients experiencing iron overload who receive chelation therapy have a significantly greater life expectancy than those who do not.