Interpretation of laboratory results

The following table provides guidance for interpretation of results of the additional tests that can be used to assess iron status.

Interpretation of Laboratory Results

  Iron deficiency without anaemia Iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) Anaemia of chronic disease (ACD) or inflammation* IDA + ACD Thalassaemia minor Iron overload
Haemoglobin N ↓ (or N) N
MCV N or ↓ ↓ (or N in early IDA) N (or mildly ↓) ↓ (or N) N
Serum ferritin N or ↑ ↓ or N N or ↑
Total iron binding capacity (TIBC) N or ↑ ↓ or N N or ↑ N ↓ or N
Transferrin saturation ↓ or N ↓ or N N or ↑
Soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR) N or ↑ N N or ↑ N

N = normal

↓ = decreased;

↑ = increased

* may also be referred to as functional iron deficiency, ie, when iron cannot be mobilised for erythropoiesis despite adequate stores.

  1. British Columbia Medical Association. Iron Deficiency – Investigation and Management, June 2010. Available from:
  2. Pasricha SR, Flecknoe-Brown SC, Allen KJ, Gibson PR, McMahon LP, Olynyk JK, et al. Diagnosis and management of iron deficiency anaemia: a clinical update. MJA 2010;193:525–532. Available from:


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