Transferrin saturation

TIBC or transferrin are typically used along with iron and ferritin to evaluate people suspected of having too much or too little iron stored within their body. Usually, about one third of the transferrin measured is being used to transport iron, and this is called transferrin saturation. In iron deficiency, iron is low and fewer transferrin binding sites are used. This results in a low transferrin saturation, but an increased TIBC. In iron overload, such as in haemochromatosis, iron and transferrin saturation will be high and TIBC will be low or normal.

High TIBC or transferrin, or low transferrin saturation, usually indicates iron deficiency. A low TIBC or transferrin, or high transferrin saturation may occur if you have haemochromatosis (too much stored iron). Other causes of abnormal results include anaemia caused by infections and chronic diseases, malnutrition, cirrhosis, or nephrotic syndrome (a kidney disease that causes loss of protein in urine).

A summary of the changes in iron tests seen in various diseases of iron status is shown in the table below.

Disease Iron TIBC/Transferrin UIBC % Transferrin Saturation Ferritin
Iron Deficiency Low High High Low Low
Haemochromatosis High Low Low High High
Chronic Illness Low Low Low/Normal Low Normal/High
Iron Poisoning High Normal Low High Normal
  • Sample of blood serum
  • We perform the test daily