October 1988

Red Cell Distribution Width, Mean Corpuscular Volume, and Transferrin Saturation in the Diagnosis of Iron Deficiency

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York.

Arch Intern Med. 1988;148(10):2128-2130. doi:10.1001/archinte.1988.00380100026006

• The usefulness of the red cell distribution width, mean corpuscular volume, and the transferrin saturation in diagnosing iron deficiency anemia were evaluated in a retrospective study of 247 anemic hospitalized patients, many of whom had chronic liver disease. A red cell distribution width greater than 15% had a sensitivity of 71% and a specificity of 54% for iron deficiency as diagnosed by a low serum ferritin or bone marrow examination. A mean corpuscular volume less than 80 femtoliters had a sensitivity of 53% and a specificity of 84%. Transferrin saturation less than 16% had a sensitivity of 61% and a specificity of 86%. Because the sensitivities and specificities of these tests are less than reported in studies of healthier populations, they cannot be relied on for screening for iron deficiency in sick hospitalized patients.

(Arch Intern Med 1988;148:2128-2130)