Total Iron Level, Iron Binding Capacity, Iron Percent Saturation Tests


Iron tests are a group of blood tests that are done to evaluate the iron level in blood serum, the body's capacity to absorb iron, and the amount of iron actually stored in the body. Iron is an essential trace element; it is necessary for the formation of red blood cells and certain enzymes. At the other extreme, high levels of iron can be poisonous.

This test is part of Cardio-Med's complete physical exam.


Iron tests are performed on samples of the patient's blood, withdrawn from a vein into a vacuum tube. The amount of blood taken is between 6 mL and 10 mL (1/3 of a fluid ounce). The procedure, which is called a venipuncture, takes about five minutes.
Iron level test
The iron level test measures the amount of iron in the blood serum that is being carried by a protein (transferrin) in the blood plasma. Medications and substances that can cause increased iron levels include chloramphenicol, estrogen preparations, dietary iron supplements, alcoholic beverages, methyldopa, and birth control pills. Medications that can cause decreased iron levels include ACTH, colchicine, deferoxamine, methicillin, and testosterone.
Total iron-binding capacity (tibc) test
The TIBC test measures the amount of iron that the blood would carry if the transferrin were fully saturated. Since transferrin is produced by the liver, the TIBC can be used to monitor liver function and nutrition. Medications that can cause increased TIBC levels include fluorides and birth control pills. Medications that can cause decreased TIBC levels include chloramphenicol and ACTH.

If iron tests are abnormal, often additional tests are needed such as the Transferrin test, the Ferritin test and the hemochromatosis gene test.

Transferrin test
The Transferrin test is a direct measurement of transferrin, (which is also called siderophilin) levels in the blood. Some laboratories prefer this measurement to the TIBC. The saturation level of the transferrin can be calculated by dividing the serum iron level by the TIBC. (The Transferrin test is a follow-on test only. It is not included in the physical exam.)
Ferritin test
The Ferritin test measures the level of a protein in the blood that stores iron for later use by the body. Medications that can cause increased ferritin levels include dietary iron supplements. In addition, some diseases that do not directly affect the body's iron storage can cause artificially high ferritin levels. These disorders include infections, late-stage cancers, lymphomas, and severe inflammations. Alcoholics often have high ferritin levels. (The Ferritin test is a follow-on test only. It is not included in the physical exam.)
Hemochromatosis test
The hemochromatosis genetic blood test will show one of the following for the mutations C282Y and/or H63D of the HFE gene:

Haemochromatosis occurs when the genetic test result shows that the patient is homozygous, that is, he has two faulty genes.

A person who is heterozygous with one faulty gene is unlikely to experience any symptoms but is known as a "carrier" because he may pass the condition to a child.

Hemochromatosis triggers the body to absorb too much iron from food. The surplus iron is stored in the body organs and can lead to health conditions such as liver cirrhosis and heart arrhythmia.

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Adapted from medicalDictionary

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