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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Nephrology 1/2018

Association of different iron deficiency cutoffs with adverse outcomes in chronic kidney disease

BMC Nephrology > Ausgabe 1/2018
Michele F. Eisenga, Ilja M. Nolte, Peter van der Meer, Stephan J. L. Bakker, Carlo A. J. M. Gaillard
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12882-018-1021-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Iron deficiency is highly prevalent in chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients. In clinical practice, iron deficiency is defined based on a combination of two commonly used markers, ferritin and transferrin saturation (TSAT). However, no consensus has been reached which cutoffs of these parameters should be applied to define iron deficiency. Hence, we aimed to assess prospectively which cutoffs of ferritin and TSAT performed optimally for outcomes in CKD patients.


We meticulously analyzed 975 CKD community dwelling patients of the Prevention of Renal and Vascular Endstage Disease prospective study based on an estimated glomerular filtration rate < 60 ml/min/1.73m2, albuminuria > 30 mg/24 h, or albumin-to-creatinine ratio ≥ 30 mg/g. Cox proportional hazard regression analyses using different sets and combinations of cutoffs of ferritin and TSAT were performed to assess prospective associations with all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, and development of anemia.


Of the included 975 CKD patients (62 ± 12 years, 64% male with an estimated glomerular filtration rate of 77 ± 23 ml/min/1.73m2), 173 CKD patients died during a median follow-up of 8.0 (interquartile range 7.5–8.7) years of which 70 from a cardiovascular cause. Furthermore, 164 CKD patients developed anemia. The highest risk for all-cause mortality (hazard ratio, 2.83; 95% confidence interval, 1.53–5.24), cardiovascular mortality (4.15; 1.78–9.66), and developing anemia (3.07; 1.69–5.57) was uniformly observed for a TSAT< 10%, independent of serum ferritin level.


In this study, we have shown that of the traditionally used markers of iron status, reduced TSAT, especially TSAT< 10%, is most strongly associated with the risk of adverse outcomes in CKD patients irrespective of serum ferritin level, suggesting that clinicians should focus more on TSAT rather than ferritin in this patient setting. Specific attention to iron levels below this cutoff seems warranted in CKD patients.
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