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Anemia of chronic disease/inflammation

Stanley L Schrier, MD
Clara Camaschella, MD
Section Editor
William C Mentzer, MD
Deputy Editor
Jennifer S Tirnauer, MD


The anemia of chronic disease (ACD, also called the anemia of inflammation, anemia of chronic inflammation, or hypoferremia of inflammation), was initially thought to be associated primarily with infectious, inflammatory, or neoplastic disease. However, other observations have shown that ACD can be seen in a variety of conditions, including severe trauma, diabetes mellitus, anemia of older adults, and in those with acute or chronic immune activation. The anemia is typically normochromic, normocytic, hypoproliferative, and mild in degree.

The pathogenesis, laboratory findings, and treatment of ACD will be reviewed here. An overview of the approach to the adult patient with anemia is presented separately. (See "Approach to the adult patient with anemia".)


Overview — ACD is thought to primarily reflect a reduction in red blood cell (RBC) production by the bone marrow, with a component due to mild shortening of RBC survival [1,2]. A number of factors are thought to contribute to this hypoproliferative state [3,4]:

Hepcidin-induced alterations in iron metabolism, including reduced absorption of iron from the gastrointestinal tract and trapping of iron in macrophages. This results in reduced plasma iron levels (hypoferremia), making iron unavailable for new hemoglobin synthesis [5-7]. (See 'Hepcidin' below.)

Inability to increase erythropoiesis in response to anemia. Serum erythropoietin (EPO) levels are somewhat elevated in ACD, but there is virtually no increase in erythropoiesis, perhaps due to increased apoptotic death of red cell precursors within the bone marrow [3,8-10].


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Oct 6, 2016.
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