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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 92-103

Prevalence, diagnosis, and management of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia among Syrian children in a major outpatient center in Damascus, Syria

1 Program of Clinical and Hospital Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Technology, School of Pharmacy, Damascus University, Damascus, Syria
2 Department of Hematology, Children's Hospital; Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Damascus University, Damascus, Syria
3 Department of Internal Medicine, Damascus University, Damascus, Syria

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Lama A Youssef
School of Pharmacy, Damascus University, Mezzeh Autostrade, Damascus
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ajm.AJM_169_17

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Background: Given the public health significance of anemia, the long-term sequelae of iron deficiency anemia (IDA) on children, the expected effect of war on the trends of anemia in Syrian society, and the lack of assessment on the national burden of anemia and/or iron deficiency (ID) data, there is a vital need to investigate all-cause anemia, ID, and IDA in Syria during the crisis. Objective: To investigate the prevalence of ID and IDA in Syrian children, the effectiveness of oral iron supplements in the management of ID, and the diagnostic effectiveness of conventional iron markers. Methods: We conducted a retrospective study on hemoglobin (Hb) levels in 4-month-old to 14-year-old children and a prospective study on hematological (complete blood count, reticulocytes, and reticulocyte Hb content) and biochemical iron indices (serum ferritin, iron, and total iron-binding capacity) of infants visiting the primary care clinic at Children's Hospital in Damascus, Syria. Results: Of the 1128 children in the retrospective study, 648 children (57%) were found to be anemic, with 417 (37%) moderately-severely anemic. The prevalence of ID and IDA in the 135 children of the prospective study was 71.85% and 55.55%, respectively. Infants with ID who underwent a 4–8-week course of oral iron supplementation demonstrated good responsiveness. Except mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH), conventional iron markers (i.e., ferritin) routinely used to assess iron status proved unreliable. Conclusion: This study reveals a high prevalence of anemia, ID, and IDA among a group of apparently healthy Syrian children. Our findings necessitate a framework of urgent public health interventions that can address two major limitations; the poor follow-up by the parents and unreliability of the conventional iron diagnostic markers. MCH may represent a simple and cheap ID screening index in children.

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