Research Article

Erythrocyte ferritin content in idiopathic haemochromatosis and alcoholic liver disease with iron overload.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983; 286 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.286.6367.752 (Published 05 March 1983) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983;286:752
  1. M B Van Der Weyden,
  2. H Fong,
  3. H H Salem,
  4. R G Batey,
  5. F J Dudley

    Abstract

    The erythrocyte ferritin content was measured in patients with either idiopathic haemochromatosis or alcoholic liver disease and iron overload to define its value as a marker for an excess of tissue iron. The mean erythrocyte ferritin content in patients with untreated idiopathic haemochromatosis was increased 60-fold and fell with phlebotomy. After phlebotomy many patients had an increased red cell ferritin content despite normal serum ferritin concentrations. That this reflected persistent iron overload with inadequate phlebotomy was suggested by the higher serum iron concentrations, percentage transferrin saturation, and urinary excretion of iron after administration of desferrioxamine, together with a lower annual iron loss by phlebotomy in this group compared with patients with treated disease and normal red cell ferritin content. The mean erythrocyte ferritin content in patients with alcoholic liver disease and iron overload was increased only sevenfold, and the ratio of erythrocyte to serum ferritin clearly discriminated these patients from those with idiopathic haemochromatosis. The determination of erythrocyte ferritin content is a useful non-invasive test for diagnosing idiopathic haemochromatosis, monitoring the effect of phlebotomy in this disorder, and distinguishing patients with this disorder from those with alcoholic liver disease with iron overload.