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I went to give blood the other day, and they take an "iron" measurement prior to actually drawing the blood. My level was 16.4 -- but what specific type of iron were they measuring?

I've heard of ferritin, transferrin, iron binding cap, total, etc., but when I asked what the upper limit was, she said 19, which didn't really fit within the healthy ranges I can find for the above types.

Thoughts?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

Most likely they were measuring the hemoglobin concentration, in units of g/dL (i.e. 101 kg/m3). Assuming by your username you are male, the reference range for [Hb] is approximately 13.8 to 18.0 g/dL (sources vary somewhat), which roughly matches the "19" you were told was the upper bound.

Wikipedia also notes that [Hb] "is typically tested before or after blood donation", making it likely that that was what they measured.

Calling it "iron" isn't strictly correct. The human Hb tetramer's molecular weight is about 65 kDa, yet it contains only 4 iron atoms, so the actual concentration of iron in your blood is actually much less.

Useful resource: Wikipedia's list of reference ranges for blood tests has a very detailed chart of commonly cited reference ranges for many substances, with citations.

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