The life expectancy of patients with thalassemia major has significantly increased in recent years, as reported by several groups in different countries. However, complications are still frequent and affect the patients' quality of life. In a recent study from the United Kingdom, it was found that 50% of the patients had died before age 35. At that age, 65% of the patients from an Italian long-term study were still alive. Heart disease is responsible for more than half of the deaths. The prevalence of complications in Italian patients born after 1970 includes heart failure in 7%, hypogonadism in 55%, hypothyroidism in 11%, and diabetes in 6%. Similar data were reported in patients from the United States. In the Italian study, lower ferritin levels were associated with a lower probability of experiencing heart failure and with prolonged survival. Osteoporosis and osteopenia are common and affect virtually all patients. Hepatitis C virus antibodies are present in 85% of multitransfused Italian patients, 23% of patients in the United Kingdom, 35% in the United States, 34% in France, and 21% in India. Hepatocellular carcinoma can complicate the course of hepatitis. A survey of Italian centers has identified 23 such cases in patients with a thalassemia syndrome. In conclusion, rates of survival and complication-free survival continue to improve, due to better treatment strategies. New complications are appearing in long-term survivors. Iron overload of the heart remains the main cause of morbidity and mortality.
- Causes of death
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)