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A Multicenter, Randomized, Double-Blind Comparison of Intravenous Iron Supplementation to both Enteral Iron Supplementation and Placebo for the Treatment of Anemia of Traumatic Critical Illness

Principal Investigator: Frederick Pieracci, MD
Lead Institution: Denver Health Medical Center
articipating site: University of Colorado School of Medicine

Nearly all trauma patients admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) are anemic (have low red blood cell counts). Anemia is an independent risk factor for poor outcomes, including infection, impaired wound healing, and death. Current therapies for ICU anemia are unsatisfactory: Red blood cell (RBC) transfusion is associated with an increased risk of immune suppression, infection, and organ failure. Furthermore, use of both hemoglobin replacement products and erythropoietin are limited by the expense as well as unfavorable side effect profiles.

One principal cause of anemia in trauma ICU patients involves disturbances in iron metabolism. Iron is necessary to make RBCs, and a lack of iron delivered to the bone marrow results in anemia. Trauma causes diversion of iron from the bone marrow into storage, where it cannot participate in the generation of RBCs. This diversion of iron is caused by inflammatory proteins released as a result of tissue injury.

Previous work by the principal investigator among ICU patients suggested a benefit to oral iron supplementation administered in dosages similar to those used in a standard multivitamin. However, many patients were not able to tolerate oral medications, and this study was not specific to trauma patients. Additional research has suggested that intravenous iron supplementation is effective in treating anemic patients with other inflammatory conditions, such as cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. However, the benefit of intravenous iron supplementation has never been tested among anemic ICU patients, including trauma patients.

This study evaluated the risk/benefit profile of intravenous iron supplementation among anemic trauma ICU patients. The study included several academic trauma centers with a long history of participation in translational research.


Pieracci FM, Stovall RT, Jaouen B, Rodil M, Cappa A, Burlew CC, Holena DN, Maier R, Berry S, Jurkovich GJ, Moore EE. A multicenter, randomized clinical trial of intravenous iron supplementation for anemia of traumatic critical illness. Crit Care Med. 2014 Sept;42(9):2048-2057.