Use of Reticulocyte Hemoglobin Content in the Assessment of Iron Deficiency in Children With Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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Abstract

Background:

Iron deficiency and anemia affect up to 50% to 75% of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Iron deficiency in IBD may be difficult to diagnose because of the effect of inflammation on iron status biomarkers. Thus, there is a need for better methods to accurately determine iron status in IBD.

Objective:

The aim of the study was to investigate the association of inflammation with hemoglobin content of reticulocytes (CHr) and the utility of CHr in comparison to standard iron biomarkers.

Methods:

We conducted a cross-sectional study of children with IBD. Iron biomarkers (CHr, ferritin, soluble transferrin receptor [sTfR], hepcidin, hemoglobin) were measured along with systemic biomarkers of inflammation (C-reactive protein, α1-acid glycoprotein]. Spearman correlations were used to evaluate the relation of inflammation and iron biomarkers. The criterion standard for iron deficiency was defined as inflammation-corrected ferritin <15 μg/L or sTfR >8.3 mg/L. Receiver operating characteristic curves were used to estimate the prognostic values of all iron biomarkers to identify patients with iron deficiency.

Results:

We analyzed data in 62 children ages 5 to 18 years. Sixty-nine percent of our subjects had Crohn disease and 31% had ulcerative colitis, of which 42% were girls and 53% African American. The prevalence of anemia was 32%, of iron deficiency was 52% using ferritin <15 μg/L or sTfR >8.3 mg/L, 39% using red blood cell distribution width of >14.5%, 26% using body iron stores of <0 mg/kg body weight, 25% using CHr of <28 pg, and 11% using mean corpuscular volume of <75 fL/cell. The prevalence of elevated CRP or AGP was 48%. After correcting ferritin and sTfR levels for inflammation, the prevalence of iron deficiency was 68%. CHr was correlated with C-reactive protein (rs −0.44, P < 0.001) and α1-acid glycoprotein (rs −0.37, P < 0.05). The optimal prognostic value for inflammation-adjusted CHr to predict iron deficiency was 34 pg (area under the receiver operating characteristic of 0.70), with 88% sensitivity and 30% specificity.

Conclusions:

Iron deficiency and anemia are common in this pediatric IBD cohort. All explored iron biomarkers, including CHr, were affected by inflammation and should be adjusted. A single iron biomarker is unlikely to best predict iron deficiency in pediatric IBD. Iron intervention studies are needed to examine the response of iron biomarkers to iron supplementation in the setting of inflammation.

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