Screening for hemochromatosis: A cost-effectiveness study based on 12,258 patients

Vijayan Balan, William Baldus, Virgil Fairbanks, Virginia Michels, Mary Burritt, George Klee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Background/Aims: Current emphasis in hemochromatosis has focused on early detection and treatment to prevent permanent liver damage and hepatocellular carcinoma. Thus far, only normal population and highrisk groups have been screened but not patients seeking medical care. Methods: Serum iron levels were determined in consecutive fasting blood samples collected in the morning from 12,258 Mayo Clinic patients. Results: One hundred twenty-seven patients had an initial serum iron concentration >- 180 μg/dL. Eight patients (age, 38-71 years; 7 men and 1 woman) had transferrin saturation >- 62% (range, 84-99) and serum ferritin value >- 400 μg/L (range, 457-4004) with no other explanation for the abnormal iron test results. Three patients (2 male and 1 female) had markedly elevated hepatic iron concentration (range, 11,080-29,719 μg/g dry wt) and hepatic iron index (range, 2.9-8.4) indicative of homozygous hemochromatosis. One patient who refused liver biopsy had 7 g of iron removed by phlebotomy and is likely homozygous. Two patients had hepatic iron indices < 1.5 and are probably heterozygous. The genetic status of 1 patient is indeterminate, and 1 patient with normal hepatic iron concentration and hepatic iron index had chronic active hepatitis. None had cirrhosis, diabetes, or cardiomyopathy. No patients with hemochromatosis would have been detected without this study. Conclusions: The yield in this study, 0.33 cases of 1000 screened, is approximately one tenth of the predicted homozygote frequency by recent estimates. Even at this yield, screening appears cost-effective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-459
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Hepatology


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