Int J Med Sci 2020; 17(14):2232-2239. doi:10.7150/ijms.46163 This issue

Research Paper

The Significance of iron deficiency and anemia in a real-life COPD cohort

Alex Pizzini1*, Magdalena Aichner1*, Thomas Sonnweber1, Ivan Tancevski1, Günter Weiss1,2✉, Judith Löffler-Ragg1✉

1. Department of Internal Medicine II, Infectious Diseases, Pneumology, Rheumatology, Medical University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.
2. Christian Doppler Laboratory for Iron Metabolism and Anemia Research, Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria.
*These authors contributed equally to this manuscript.

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Pizzini A, Aichner M, Sonnweber T, Tancevski I, Weiss G, Löffler-Ragg J. The Significance of iron deficiency and anemia in a real-life COPD cohort. Int J Med Sci 2020; 17(14):2232-2239. doi:10.7150/ijms.46163. Available from

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Background: Current evidence suggests an increased prevalence of iron deficiency (ID) and anemia in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). ID and subsequent anemia can be due to iron losses via bleeding resulting in absolute ID or inflammation-driven retention of iron within macrophages resulting in functional ID and anemia of inflammation.

Methods: This is a retrospective analysis of 204 non-exacerbated COPD patients in outpatient care. Current definitions of absolute and functional ID were applied to determine the prevalence of ID and to analyze associations to disease severity in terms of lung function parameters and clinical symptoms.

Results: The studied cohort of COPD patients demonstrated a high prevalence of ID, ranging from 30 to 40% during the observation time. At the initial presentation, absolute or functional ID was found in 9.3% to 12.3% of COPD individuals, whereas combined forms of absolute and functional ID were most prevalent (25.9% of all individuals). The prevalence of ID increased during longitudinal follow-up (37 ± 15 months), and especially combined forms of ID were significantly related to anemia. Anemia prevalence ranged between 14.2% and 20.8% during the observation period and anemia was associated with lower FEV1, DLCOc, and CRP elevation. Accordingly, ID was associated with decreased FEV1, DLCOc, and an elevation in CRP.

Conclusion: ID is common in COPD patients, but a uniform definition for accurate diagnosis does not exist. Prevalence of functional ID and anemia increased during follow-up. The associations of ID and anemia with reduced functional lung capacity and elevated inflammation may reflect a more severe COPD phenotype.

Keywords: COPD, obstructive pulmonary disease, anemia, iron deficiency, inflammation