When interpreted with care, iron studies can be very useful biochemical tests. The clinical scenario of the individual patient must always be taken into account.
- A low serum ferritin level is the single most reliable indication of true iron deficiency.
- Unexplained iron deficiency is concerning for underlying gastrointestinal pathology such as coeliac disease or malignancy.
- A normal or high serum ferritin level is often the result of inflammation, infection, liver disease or cancer and can therefore mask the presence of iron deficiency. C-reactive protein (CRP) level, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and liver function tests may provide useful additional information.