, Volume 67, Issue 5, pp 685-700
Date: 18 Sep 2012

Optimal Management Strategies for Chronic Iron Overload

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Abstract

Iron overload is characterised by excessive iron deposition and consequent injury and dysfunction of target organs, especially the heart, liver, anterior pituitary, pancreas and joints. Iron overload disorders are common worldwide and occur in most major race/ethnicity groups. Physiological mechanisms to excrete iron are very limited. Thus, all patients with iron overload need safe and effective treatment that is compatible with their co-existing medical conditions. Treatments for iron overload include phlebotomy and erythrocytapheresis that remove iron predominantly as haemoglobin, and chelation therapy with drugs that bind excess iron selectively and increase its excretion. The most important potential benefits of therapy are preventing deaths due to cardiac siderosis and hepatic cirrhosis. Preventing iron-related injury to endocrine organs is critical in children. Successful treatment or prevention of iron overload increases quality of life and survival in many patients. This article characterises the major categories of iron overload disorders, tabulates methods to evaluate and treat iron overload, and describes treatment options for iron overload disorders. Research needed to advance knowledge about treatment of iron overload is proposed.