Issue: 2007 > December > special report

Synopsis of the Dutch multidisciplinary guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of hereditary haemochromatosis

D.W. Swinkels, A.T.M. Jorna, R.A.P. Raymakers


Hereditary haemochromatosis (HH) is a disease related to mutations in the HFE gene and can lead to progressive iron accumulation, especially in the liver, eventually resulting in organ damage. We have developed guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of this disease according to Cbo methodology (dutch institute for Healthcare Quality). The prevalence of clinical symptoms such as fatigue, arthropathies, impotence and diabetes mellitus among homozygotes was similar to that in a control population. Nevertheless, we recommend the assessment of serum iron indices when these symptoms remain unexplained. When transferrin saturation is >45% and ferritin exceeds local reference ranges, HFE mutations should be investigated. Homozygosity for the C282Y mutation or combined C282Y/H63d mutation confirms the diagnosis of HFE-related HH. Liver biopsy is recommended when ferritin exceeds 1000 μg/l to establish the presence or absence of cirrhosis, which will affect prognosis and management. iron accumulation confirmed by magnetic resonance imaging (Mri) in the absence of the homozygous C282Y mutation or the combined C282Y/H63d genotype may justify a search for rare hereditary forms of non-HFE HH in a specialised centre. The literature supports the benefits of adequate phlebotomy and the screening of first-degree relatives of index patients with clinically overt HH. overall, the guidelines presented here are to a great extent based on the expert opinion of the working party, as the quantity of evidence that met predefined criteria posed by the evidence-based approach was small. We therefore recommend world-wide efforts to collaboratively address these remaining issues.