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Intravenous (iv) iron administration is typically indicated in individuals who have iron deficiency refractory to oral iron. However, in certain chronic disease states, it may be beneficial to administer iv iron to individuals who are not strictly iron deficient. The purpose of this study was to define a dose-response relationship between clinical indices of iron status and modest loading with iv iron in healthy, iron-replete participants. This was a double-blind, controlled study involving 18 male participants. Participants were block randomised 2:1 to the iron and saline (control) groups. Participants in the iron group received 250 mg of iv iron, once a month for six months, provided that their ferritin remained < 300 µg/L and their transferrin saturation remained < 45%. Otherwise they received a saline infusion, as did the control participants. Iron indices were measured monthly during the study. The pulmonary vascular response to sustained hypoxia and total hemoglobin mass were measured before, at three months (hemoglobin mass only) and at six months, as variables that may be affected by iron loading. Serum ferritin was robustly elevated by iv iron by 0.21 µg/L/mg of iron delivered (95% CI: 0.15-0.26 µg/L/mg), but the effects on all other iron indices did not reach statistical significance. The pulmonary vascular response to sustained hypoxia was significantly suppressed by iron loading at six months, but the hemoglobin mass was unaffected. We conclude that the robust effect on ferritin provides a quantitative measure for the degree of iron loading in iron-replete individuals.

Original publication




Journal article


J Appl Physiol (1985)

Publication Date



ferritin, iron-loading, pulmonary circulation