Iron overload may develop in transfusion-dependent patients receiving red cells over a long period.
Problems usually develop once more than 30 g of iron accumulate. Each unit of red cells has 200 mg of iron; normal body stores are 3-4.0 g; daily losses are 1 mg.
Symptoms are similar to those seen in haemochromatosis with:
- endocrine dysfunction - for example, diabetes mellitus
- liver cirrhosis
- cardiac failure
- growth failure in children
- serum ferritin to estimate body iron stores
- desferrioxamine as a chelating agent, with vitamin C to enhance the therapeutic effect