Our aim was to evaluate the cut-off value and efficiency of using reticulocyte hemoglobin content as a marker to diagnose iron deficiency anemia in Chinese adults. 140 adults who needed bone marrow aspiration for diagnosis at the hematology department of the Peking Union Medical College Hospital were enrolled according to the inclusive and exclusive criteria. Venous blood samples were collected to detect complete blood count, including hemoglobin, reticulocyte hemoglobin content, hematocrit, mean cellular volume, corpuscular hemoglobin concentration, hemoglobin content, free erythrocyte protoporphyrin; iron indexes of serum ferritin, serum transferrin receptor, and unsaturated iron-binding capacity; and inflammation markers of C-reactive protein and α-acid glycoprotein. Bone marrow samples were obtained for the bone marrow iron staining, which was used as the standard for the evaluation of iron status in this study. Subjects were divided into three groups according to hemoglobin levels and bone marrow iron staining results: the IDA (iron deficiency anemia) group, the NIDA (non-iron deficiency anemia) group, and the control group. The differences of the above-mentioned indexes were compared among the three groups and the effect of inflammation was also considered. The cut-off value of reticulocyte hemoglobin content was determined by receiver operation curves. The IDA group (n
= 56) had significantly lower reticulocyte hemoglobin content, mean cellular volume, corpuscular hemoglobin concentration, hemoglobin content, and serum ferritin; and higher free erythrocyte protoporphyrin, unsaturated iron-binding capacity, and serum transferrin receptor (p
< 0.05) compared with the NIDA group (n
= 38) and control group (n
= 46). Hematocrit, serum ferritin, and unsaturated iron-binding capacity were significantly affected by inflammation while reticulocyte hemoglobin content and other parameters were not. The cut-off value of reticulocyte hemoglobin content for diagnosing iron deficiency anemia was 27.2 pg, with a sensitivity of 87.5% and a specificity of 92.9%. The cut-off values for mean cellular volume, serum ferritin, and serum transferrin receptor were 76.6, 12.9, and 4.89 mg/L, respectively. Reticulocyte hemoglobin content had the largest area under the curve of 0.929, while those for mean cellular volume, serum ferritin, serum transferrin receptor were 0.922, 0.887, and 0.900, respectively. Reticulocyte hemoglobin content has a high sensitivity and specificity in the diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia, and its comprehensive diagnostic efficacy is better than other traditional indicators—such as serum ferritin and serum transferrin receptor.
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