If I could be granted 1 wish regarding all health professionals, it would be that we were all competent in reading Iron Studies.  Think that’s overstating the issue? Or not a bodacious enough way to ‘spend’ my wish? I don’t. Especially when you consider the impact of GPs in this space. 

This 57Y male was asked to make a follow up appointment with his doctor, to discuss his ‘abnormal’ results which he was informed constitute Iron deficiency. 
Consequently he was was advised to start an iron supplement! #@!*

Your thoughts?  Revoke this doctors medical licence?  Insist on some very du jour ‘re-training’ at the very least?  I mean, if you think this Iron pattern flags a deficiency or shortfall, then you’re as good as reading a map upside down and back to front…and written in a foreign language!! The ‘Ls’ in his latest labs flag he has suppressed transferrin, indicative of negative feedback inhibition of GIT uptake of this mineral, secondary to healthy stores or inflammation. And it’s not just that more iron is not indicated but that more iron in fact presents a patient like this with increased and unnecessary risk: to their microbiome, intestinal wall health, even according to the larger longer studies a potential correlation with colorectal cancer risk, if taken long term. Let alone the whole cardiovascular conundrum.  Better still this same patient was told a few years back that he might have iron overload!  Again the ‘map’ could only have been being read, upside down, back to front to reach such a conclusion! 

So the one patient in just a few years by 2 different doctors has been diagnosed incorrectly with 2 different iron issues. Yep.

And sadly I have sooooo many more cases of missed and mis-diagnoses with regard to this mineral.  The latest RACGP Position Statement on the Use of Iron Studies, underscores that assessment of iron status and GPs competence in knowing when to do this and how to interpret, is an important part of core general practice. Given it “is the commonest nutritional deficiency state in Australia and is significantly under-diagnosed” This succinct document offers a quick crash course in Iron nutrition for doctors and it hits all the right marks with advice about not ordering ferritin as a stand-alone because “the interactive nature of the three components allows for more accurate interpretation” and this simple but sage advice:

Transferrin, iron transport protein, tends to increase in ID…
A better strategy (than being tricked by Serum Fe) is to report transferrin saturation.
A low transferrin saturation in the setting of an equivocal ferritin level is suggestive of iron deficiency.
An elevated transferrin saturation is the first manifestation of iron overload.

I mean seriously, do doctors read these RAGCP resources & recommendations, or is it just me? 🤓😂  

Need a rip-roaring review on how to really read iron studies?  Or know another health professional who does?!! Consider this Easter Educational Gift Instead of Eggs!!
So You Think You Know How To Read Iron Studies?
Overt Iron Deficiency Anaemia or Haemochromatosis aside…do you understand the critical insights markers like transferrin and its saturation reveal about your patients iron status?  Most practitioners don’t and as a result give iron when they shouldn’t and fail to sometimes when they should.  This audio complete with an amazing cheat sheet for interpreting your patients Iron Study results will sharpen your skills around iron assessment, enabling you to recognise the real story of your patients’ relationship with iron.