What is the prognosis of transfusion-induced iron overload?

Updated: May 07, 2021
  • Author: Geneva E Guarin, MD, MBA; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Complications of iron overload have been steadily falling since the introduction of deferoxamine. For thalassemia major patients in Italy who were started on deferoxamine after subcutaneous infusions became widely available in 1980, death from cardiac disease fell from 5% at 20 years to 1%, and the incidence rates hypogonadism, diabetes, and hypothyroidism also fell significantly.

Better survival has been demonstrated for patients born in more recent years (P < 0.00005) and for females (P = 0.0003). In a study by Borgna-Pignatti et al, 68% of patients were alive at age 35 years, with 67% of the patient deaths due to heart disease. [78] In some patients treated with deferoxamine (particularly those who start treatment late or who fail to comply with treatment), high levels of iron (>15 mg iron per gram of liver dry weight) are still present—a level that is associated with a high risk of cardiac disease and early death over a long period. [86] Failure to control serum ferritin over prolonged periods is also associated with an increased risk of cardiac disease and death. [25]

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