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A test that measures the amount of ferritin in the blood.

How the test is performed

Blood is drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The puncture site is cleaned with antiseptic, and an elastic band is placed around the upper arm to apply pressure and restrict blood flow through the vein. This causes veins below the band to fill with blood.

A needle is inserted into the vein, and the blood is collected in an air-tight vial or a syringe. During the procedure, the band is removed to restore circulation. Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.

For an infant or young child:
The area is cleansed with antiseptic and punctured with a sharp needle or a lancet. The blood may be collected in a pipette (small glass tube), on a slide, onto a test strip, or into a small container. Cotton or a bandage may be applied to the puncture site if there is any continued bleeding.

How to prepare for the test

The health care provider may advise you to stop taking drugs that may affect the test (see "Special Considerations").

For infants and children:
The preparation you can provide for this test depends on your child's age, previous experiences, and level of trust. For specific information regarding how you can prepare your child, see the following topics:
  • infant test or procedure preparation (birth to 1 year)
  • toddler test or procedure preparation (1 to 3 years)
  • preschooler test or procedure preparation (3 to 6 years)
  • schoolage test or procedure preparation (6 to 12 years)
  • adolescent test or procedure preparation (12 to 18 years)

How the test will feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

Why the test is performed

This test is measures the amount of iron in the body. Iron is important for red blood cell production.

Ferritin is a protein that stores iron in the body. The serum ferritin level -- the amount of ferritin in your blood -- is directly proportional to the amount of iron stored in your body.

Normal Values

male: 12-300 ng/ml
female: 12-150 ng/ml

Note: ng/ml = nanograms per milliliter

The lower the ferritin level, even within the "normal" range, the more likely a patient is iron deficient.

What abnormal results mean

Higher-than-normal levels may indicate:

Note: Any inflammatory disorder can raise the ferritin level.

  • alcoholic liver disease
  • hemochromatosis
  • hemolytic anemia
  • Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • megaloblastic anemia
Lower-than-normal levels may indicate:
  • chronic gastrointestinal bleeding
  • heavy menstrual bleeding
  • iron deficiency anemia
Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:
  • anemia of chronic disease

What the risks are

  • excessive bleeding
  • fainting or feeling light-headed
  • hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)
  • multiple punctures to locate veins

Special considerations

Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Update Date: 6/1/2003

Marcia S. Brose, M.D., Ph.D., Division of Hematology/Oncology, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT