The two most frequent microcytic anemias are β-thalassemic trait (β-TT) and iron deficiency anemia (IDA). Several discrimination indices have been proposed to distinguish between these two conditions. These indices are derived from several simple red blood cell indices, like red blood cell (RBC) count, mean cell volume, and RBC distribution width (RDW), as these are provided by electronic cell counters. The purpose of the study is to examine the diagnostic accuracy of six discrimination indices in the differentiation between IDA and β-TT. The six discrimination indices that were examined were as follows: Mentzer Index (MI), Green & King Index (G&K), RDW Index (RDWI), England & Fraser Index (E&F), RDW, and RBC count. We calculated these indices on 373 patients (205 men, 168 women) with β-TT and 120 patients (50 men, 70 women) with IDA, as well as their sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative prognostic value, efficiency, and Youden’s index (YI). G&K shows the highest reliability, followed by E&F, RBC count, MI, and RDWI. On the contrary, RDW completely failed to differentiate between IDA and β-TT. G&K proved to be the most reliable index as it had the highest sensitivity (75.06%), efficiency (80.12%), and YI (70.86%) for the detection of β-TT. These six discrimination indices cannot be relied on for a safe differential diagnosis between β-TT and IDA. They do have high specificity, but their sensitivity for the detection of β-TT is not satisfactory. Consequently, they cannot be used neither as a screening tool for β-TT because they could result in a significant number of false negative results.
β-thalassemic trait Iron deficiency anemia Microcytosis Discrimination index
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We would like to thank Mrs. Fotakeli Ourania for her significant help in the collection of data and Mr. Moschonas F. Ioannis, PhD, for his great help in the statistical analysis.
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