Current recommendations for chelation for transfusion-dependent thalassemia

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Regular red cell transfusions used to treat thalassemia cause iron loading that must be treated with chelation therapy. Morbidity and mortality in thalassemia major are closely linked to the adequacy of chelation. Chelation therapy removes accumulated iron and detoxifies iron, which can prevent and reverse much of the iron-mediated organ injury. Currently, three chelators are commercially available––deferoxamine, deferasirox, and deferiprone––and each can be used as monotherapy or in combination. Close monitoring of hepatic and cardiac iron burden is central to tailoring chelation. Other factors, including properties of the individual chelators, ongoing transfusional iron burden, and patient preference, must be considered. Monotherapy generally is utilized if the iron burden is in an acceptable or near-acceptable range and the dose is adjusted accordingly. Combination chelation often is employed for patients with high iron burden, iron-related organ injury, or where adverse effects of chelators preclude administration of an appropriate chelator dose. The combination of deferoxamine and deferiprone is the best studied, but increasing data are available on the safety and efficacy of newer chelator combinations, including deferasirox with deferoxamine and the oral-only combination of deferasirox with deferiprone. The expanding chelation repertoire should enable better control of iron burden and improved outcomes.

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