Blood Viscosity and its Relationship to Iron Deficiency, Symptoms, and Exercise Capacity in Adults With Cyanotic Congenital Heart Disease

Craig S. Broberg, Bridget E. Bax, Darlington O. Okonko, Michael W. Rampling, Stephanie Bayne, Carl Harries, Simon J. Davidson, Anselm Uebing, Arif Anis Khan, Swee Thein, J. Simon R. Gibbs, John Burman, Michael A. Gatzoulis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study sought to determine the relationship between blood viscosity and iron deficiency and their impact on symptoms and exercise function in adults with cyanotic congenital heart disease. Background: Iron deficiency is believed to raise whole blood viscosity in cyanotic congenital heart disease, although available data are inconsistent. Methods: Thirty-nine cyanotic adults were prospectively assessed for iron deficiency (transferrin saturation ≤5%), hyperviscosity symptoms, and exercise capacity. Same-day measurement of whole blood viscosity and hematocrit (Hct) adjusted viscosity (cells resuspended in autologous plasma to Hct of 45%) was performed at shear rates ranging from 0.277 s-1 to 128.5 s-1. Results: Viscosity did not differ between patients with iron deficiency (n = 14) and those without (n = 25). Whole blood viscosity correlated with Hct (r = 0.63, p < 0.001 at low shear and r = 0.84, p < 0.001 at high shear) but not with red blood cell size or iron indices. Hyperviscosity symptoms were independent of iron indices but directly correlated with increased Hct-adjusted viscosity (r = 0.41, p = 0.01). Exercise capacity did not differ in iron-deficient patients. However, peak oxygen consumption was higher in those with Hct ≥ 65% (12.6 ± 3.4 ml/kg/m2 vs. 9.8 ± 2.6 ml/kg/m2, mean ± SD, p = 0.036) despite higher whole blood viscosity in these same individuals (p < 0.01 for all shear rates). Conclusions: Iron deficiency is common in cyanotic adults but does not alter viscosity. Hyperviscosity symptoms are associated with a higher Hct-adjusted viscosity independent of cell size or iron stores. Higher Hct is associated with better exercise capacity. Further work to understand the origin of hyperviscosity symptoms is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)356-365
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 18 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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