Serum Ferritin as an Indicator of Neonatal Anaemia

Asinobi Isaac Nwabueze *

Department of Paediatrics, College of Medicine, Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Enugu, Nigeria and Department of Paediatrics, Enugu State University of Science and Technology Teaching Hospital, Enugu, Nigeria.

*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.


Introduction: Haemoglobin levels are usually used to diagnose neonatal anaemia. By the time haemoglobin levels drop, body iron is depleted. Serum ferritin is the standard measure for assessment of iron levels in neonates and detects iron deficiency earlier than haemoglobin levels.

Aims: To determine the prevalence of low haemoglobin and ferritin levels amongst term and preterm newborn babies. To determine the value of serum ferritin in the diagnosis of low iron stores amongst term and preterm newborns.

Methodology: This was a cross sectional descriptive study carried out at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu, Nigeria between June and December 2014. The study included 140 newborns of all birth weights delivered at the UNTH. These were categorized into preterm (gestational age <37 completed weeks) and term (gestational age ≥37 completed weeks. Babies with C-reactive protein levels > 10mg/dl, who were intra-uterine growth restricted, and whose mothers had conditions associated with low iron stores were excluded from the study. Anthropometric measurements were done for all subjects. Haemoglobin estimation and ferritin assay were carried out and the prevalence of neonatal anaemia was determined using each of these.

Results: The range of haemoglobin concentration in the study population was 12.22g/gl – 22.80g/dl. The mean serum haemoglobin concentrations were 15.69mg/dl ± 1.58 and 16.45 ± 1.92 in the preterm and term babies respectively (t = 2.557, P = .0116). The prevalence of low haemoglobin concentrations amongst both preterm and term babies was zero= .024). The range of serum ferritin level in the study population was 20.6µg/l - 296µg/l. The mean serum ferritin levels were 63.13µg/l ± 23.93 and 133.67µg/l ± 50.14 in the preterm and term babies respectively (t = 10.623, P < .001). The prevalence of low serum ferritin in the study population was 22.14%, but was higher in preterm than term babies 35.7% vs 8.6%: (OR – 5.926, 95% C.I OR = 2.248 – 15.619)(P<.001).

Conclusion: Serum ferritin assay is more useful than haemoglobin as an indicator of anaemia during the neonatal period.          

Keywords: Anaemia, ferritin, iron, prevalence, indicator

How to Cite

Nwabueze, Asinobi Isaac. 2023. “Serum Ferritin As an Indicator of Neonatal Anaemia”. International Blood Research & Reviews 14 (4):8-16.


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