Transferrin saturation, measured as a percentage, is a medical laboratory value. It is the value of serum iron divided by the total iron-binding capacity. Of the available transferrin, the main protein that binds iron in the blood, this value tells a clinician how much serum iron is bound. For instance, a value of 15% means that 15% of iron-binding sites of transferrin are being occupied by iron. The three results are usually reported together. A low transferrin saturation is a common indicator of iron deficiency anemia whereas a high transferrin saturation may indicate iron overload or hemochromatosis.
Normal reference ranges are:
- Serum iron: 60–170 μg/dL (10–30 μmol/L)
- Total iron-binding capacity: 240–450 μg/dL
- Transferrin saturation: average 25%. Reference ranges depend on multiple factors like age, sex, race and test devices. Most laboratories define “normal” as max. 30% for female and max. 45% for male persons. Above 50% the risk of toxic non-transferrin bound iron (NTBI) rises exponentially, potentially causing organ damage.
μg/dL = micrograms per deciliter μmol/L = micromoles per liter
Laboratories often use different units and "normal" may vary by population and the lab techniques used. To help clinicians interpret their patients' results, laboratories are generally also required to report their normal or reference values.
- "Transferrin and Iron-binding Capacity (TIBC, UIBC)". labtestsonline.org. The American Association for Clinical Chemistry.
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- Iron status indicator National Report on Biochemical Indicators of Diet and Nutrition in the U.S. Population 1999-2002, CDC Summary. Retrieved December 17, 2019
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- [Alison Kelley, Dinesh Talwar: Interpreting iron studies. Department of Biochemistry, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, UK. BMJ 2017;357:j2513 doi: 10.1136/bmj.j2513 (Published 2017 June 15)
- Brissot P, Ropert M, Le Lan C, Loréal O.: Non-transferrin bound iron: a key role in iron overload and iron toxicity. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Mar;1820(3):403-10. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2011.07.014. Epub 2011 Aug 9.
- Meghna Patel et al.: Non Transferrin Bound Iron: Nature, Manifestations and Analytical Approaches for Estimation. Ind J Clin Biochem (Oct-Dec 2012) 27(4):322–332 DOI 10.1007/s12291-012-0250-7
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