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1691 Measuring Reticulocyte Hemoglobin Content As a Marker for Iron Deficiency and Response to Therapy Represents a Paradigm Shift in Care

Program: Oral and Poster Abstracts
Session: 102. Regulation of Iron Metabolism: Poster II
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
Adult, Technology and Procedures, Study Population, Clinically relevant, serologic tests
Sunday, December 6, 2020, 7:00 AM-3:30 PM

Michael Auerbach, MD, FACP1, Carlo Brugnara, MD2,3 and Steve Staffa, PhD4*

1Medicine, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD
2Department of Laboratory Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA
3Department of Laboratory Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
4Anesthesiology, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA

It is estimated anemia affects over 30% of the world’s population, with iron deficiency (ID) the overwhelmingly most common cause. Whether absolute due to blood loss and/or iron sequestration to underlying morbidity, the need for repletion especially in females, is a formidable medical issue. The diagnosis of iron deficient erythropoiesis has been traditionally based on the biochemical parameters ferritin and percent transferrin saturation (TSAT), mean cell volume and hemoglobin (Hb) concentration. In recent years, reticulocyte Hb content has emerged as a parameter helpful in identifying iron deficient erythropoiesis and informing a need, or lack thereof, for replacement.

556 consecutive, non-selected patients referred for diagnosis and/or treatment of anemia were included in this diagnostic study to compare the performance of reticulocyte hemoglobin equivalent (RET-He) versus traditional biochemical markers for diagnosis and treatment of IDA. CBC, serum ferritin, iron and TSAT were performed as clinically indicated. RET-He was measured with a Sysmex XN-450 analyzer on the residual CBC sample. 556 patients were studied at baseline and 150 were subsequently treated with intravenous (IV) iron. 240/556 were seen at follow-up, with 57 treated and 183 not treated with IV iron.

At baseline, ret-He, positively correlated with Hb (Spearman correlation (rho)=0.365, P < 0.001), MCV (rho=0.576, P < 0.001), MCH (rho=0.777, P < 0.001), serum iron (rho=0.526, P < 0.001) and TSAT (rho=0.492, P < 0.001). Serum iron, and TSAT (but not serum ferritin or MCV, or absolute reticulocyte count) positively correlated with Hb concentrations. Based on either a serum ferritin <30 ng/ml and/or a TSAT< 20%, 241/556 (43.4%) patients were diagnosed as iron deficient. Anemia was present in 64/241 of the iron deficient patients (26.6%).

Despite the limitations of the biochemical markers outlined above, we performed ROC analysis assessing the value of RET-He in identifying iron deficiency as defined by serum ferritin <30 ng/mL or transferrin saturation <20%. ROC analysis demonstrates a reasonable performance for RET-He (AUC= 0.733, 95% CI: 0.692, 0.775), with a cut-off value of <30.7 pg yielding 68.2% sensitivity and 69.7% specificity. Using both Hb and RET-He in a multivariable ROC analysis does not provide an improved AUC, as compared to just using RET-He (AUC=0.605 vs.0.733).

IV iron administration was associated with significant increases in Hb, MCV, MCH, RET-He, serum ferritin, iron and TSAT, whereas in the no-IV iron cohort, there was a small reduction in RET-He and small increases in MCV and MCH, with no significant variations in Hb and in the other parameters. Serum ferritin was below 30 ng/mL in 18/57 (32%) of the patients requiring IV iron and in 19/183 (10.4%) of those not requiring iron at visit 1. These values changed to 4/57 (7%) (P=0.002) and 23/183 (13%) (P=0.623) at visit 2, respectively.

Regression analysis for Hb response following IV iron showed that baseline RET-He values are predictive of Hb response, with every unitary increase in RET-He corresponding to a blunting of the Hb change by -0.19 g/dl (95% CI: -0.27, -0.11; P < 0.001). Changes in RE-He associated with IV iron administration are also predictive of the Hb response, with every additional unit increase in RET-He corresponding to a 0.21 g/dL increase in Hb (95% CI: 0.13, 0.28; P < 0.009). ROC analysis for the capability to predict Hb response among the 57 patients receiving IV iron shows that a value of baseline RET-He < 28.5 pg together with a baseline Hb value < 10.3 g/dL provide the highest Youden’s index for predicting Hb response > 1.0 g/dl, with sensitivity of 84% and specificity of 78%. The Figure presents data for the 21/57 patients who had RET-He < 28.5 pg and Hb < 10.3 g/dL vs the 36/57 who did not.

The present data show that an abnormally low ret-He value (< 28.5 pg) identifies patients who will respond to iron replacement, obviating delays to obtain standard iron parameters. Baseline and changes in ret-He also associate with Hb response. Given the enormous prevalence of ID in the general population the use of the ret-He, which is available with the CBC on the autoanalyzer, informs need for iron replacement, or lack thereof, represents an increase in convenience for patient and physician, decreases costs, streamlines care and represents an improvement in the treatment paradigm of one of the commonest maladies on the planet.

Disclosures: Auerbach: AMAG: Research Funding; Sysmex: Research Funding. Brugnara: American Journal of Hematology: Other; Sysmex America Inc.: Consultancy.

*signifies non-member of ASH