Hepatic iron overload in blacks and whites: A comparative autopsy study

Kyle E. Brown, Chaudhary M. Khan, M. Bridget Zimmerman, Elizabeth M. Brunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Genetic susceptibility to iron loading is an important factor in the development of iron overload in Africans. This suggests that persons of African descent may be at risk to develop iron overload with its attendant complications, but relatively little is known about hepatic iron overload among blacks. The aim of this study was to compare the prevalence, histological features, and clinical correlates of hepatic iron overload in a group of autopsied black and white veterans. METHODS: Hepatic iron concentrations (HIC) were determined on liver tissue from autopsies performed at the John Cochran Veterans Affairs Medical Center during the period 1993 to 1996. Clinical information was obtained from autopsy protocols. Sections from livers in which the HIC exceeded the upper limit of normal were examined histologically. RESULTS: Of 256 specimens, 99 were from blacks (39%), whereas 157 were from whites (61%). Thirty-one blacks (31%) had an elevated HIC versus 44 whites (28%) (ns). In the majority of these cases (18 blacks, 30 whites), the HIC was less than twice the upper limit of normal. Nine of 15 subjects with an HIC greater than twice the upper limit of normal and no evident cause of secondary iron overload were black. CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of mild-to-moderate hepatic iron overload was similar in this group of black and white veterans. Because of the inherent limitations of autopsy studies, prospective assessment of iron stores in healthy blacks is needed to determine more accurately the prevalence and clinical significance of iron overload in this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1594-1598
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2003


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