Myocardial iron loading in transfusion-dependent thalassemia and sickle cell disease

John C. Wood, J. Michael Tyszka, Susan Carson, Marvin D. Nelson and Thomas D. Coates


Cardiac T2* (magnetic resonance imaging relaxation parameter) is abnormally low in approximately 40% of adults with thalassemia major (TM), suggesting myocardial iron deposition, but it is unknown at what age this occurs. To address this question, we measured cardiac T2* and function in 19 young patients (aged 7-26 years) with TM as well as 17 patients receiving long-term transfusions for sickle cell anemia (SCA) matched for age, sex, and liver iron content. Cardiac T2* was normal in all of the SCA patients but was low (high iron) in 8 of 19 TM patients. Abnormal T2* was observed only in the TM patients receiving transfusions for 13 years or longer and was correlated with ferritin but not liver iron levels. Cardiac dysfunction was present in 3 of the 8 patients with low T2*. Cardiac T2* changes have a long latency relative to liver iron accumulation. Total transfusional burden is a significant independent risk factor for low cardiac T2* and may partially account for differences observed between patients with SCA and TM.

  • Submitted June 16, 2003.
  • Accepted October 9, 2003.
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