Test Detail
Interpreting Results

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Written by
Dr. Shreya Gupta
BDS, MDS - Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
Reviewed by
Dr. Ashish Ranjan
MBBS, MD (Pharmacology)
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Total Iron Binding Capacity

Total Iron Binding Capacity
You need to provide
This test is for
Male, Female
Test Preparation
  1. Do not eat or drink anything other than water for 8-12 hours before the test.


What is TIBC?

Iron is an essential micronutrient which plays important roles, including transport of oxygen through the red blood cells (RBCs). Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC) Test measures the total amount of iron that can be bound by the proteins in the blood. As transferrin is the main iron-binding protein in the blood, the TIBC test indirectly measures the amount of transferrin available to bind to iron.

Why is TIBC done?

The TIBC Test is performed:

·         To confirm anemia due to iron deficiency detected in routine checkups

·         To determine excess or deficiency of iron in the body

·         To determine the capacity of the blood to transport iron

What does TIBC Measure?

Iron is an essential micronutrient that is required by the body in trace amounts. Iron plays an essential role in a number of body activities. The most important role of iron is that it regulates the formation and functioning of red blood cells or RBCs. Iron is an integral part of a protein called hemoglobin present in the RBCs. RBCs transport oxygen from the lungs to other body tissues.

Iron is not produced by the body and its only source is diet. Only a minute quantity of iron is required by the body. Most of the iron obtained from the food is found in hemoglobin present inside the RBCs. Excess iron absorbed from food is stored as ferritin, and a small amount is present in myoglobin and enzymes. Ferritin is stored in the liver, spleen, bone marrow, and skeletal muscles. When the iron level in the blood drops, it is recovered from these stored iron reserves.

The protein transferrin is produced by the liver and transports iron to different parts of the body for utilization or storage. Low levels of transferrin can impair the transport of iron for utilization or storage and may give rise to symptoms of iron deficiency or overdose. Transferrin is a negative acute phase reactant which means that its level decreases in case of inflammation in the body. It is the primary iron-transporting protein in the body and most of the free iron remains bound to it.

The following tests are performed apart from the Total Iron Binding Capacity Test to measure the iron levels of the body and results are interpreted accordingly:

·         Serum Iron Test measures the levels of iron present in the blood.

·         Transferrin Test measures the levels of transferrin present in blood both bound and unbound with iron.

·         Unsaturated Iron Binding Capacity (UIBC) Test measures the transferrin reserve of the body, or the amount of transferrin not saturated with iron.

·         Transferrin Saturation Test is performed to determine the amount of transferrin that is saturated with iron. In normal conditions, approximately one-third of transferrin is bound to and saturated with iron.

·         Ferritin Test measures the amount of the protein ferritin in blood. Ferritin is the primary iron storage protein of the body.

Interpreting TIBC results


Normal Range: 250 to 425µg/dL

TIBC Test results are usually interpreted in combination with other iron tests as follows:




Transferrin Saturation








Iron Deficiency






Hemochromatosis, Hemosiderosis






Chronic Illness






Hemolytic Anemia






Sideroblastic Anemia






Iron Poisoning

Answers to Patient Concerns & Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about TIBC

Frequently Asked Questions about Total Iron Binding Capacity

Q. How is this test performed?
This test is performed on a blood sample. A syringe with a fine needle is used to withdraw blood from a blood vessel in your arm. The healthcare provider will tie an elastic band around your arm to make the blood vessels swell with blood. This makes it easier to withdraw blood. You may be asked to tightly clench your fist. Once the veins are clearly visible, the area is cleaned with an antiseptic solution and then the needle is inserted into the blood vessel to collect the sample. You will feel a tiny pinprick during the procedure. Blood sample once collected will then be sent to the laboratory.
Q. Is there any risk associated with this test?
There is no risk associated with the test. However, since this test involves a needle prick to withdraw the blood sample, in very rare cases, a patient may experience increased bleeding, hematoma formation (blood collection under the skin), bruising or infection at the site of needle prick.
Q. What are the common symptoms of iron deficiency?
Common signs and symptoms which appear during chronic iron deficiency include chronic unexplained fatigue and tiredness, weakness, dizziness and headaches, pale skin (pallor), and irritability.
Q. What is hemochromatosis?
Hemochromatosis is a condition that causes the accumulation of iron in the body to higher than normal levels. It is of two types, Hereditary Hemochromatosis and Secondary Hemochromatosis. Hereditary hemochromatosis is caused due to a genetic mutation which causes the body to absorb iron in excessive amounts from food. Secondary Hemochromatosis is commonly found in patients suffering from bleeding disorders who need multiple blood transfusions and iron accumulation from each. The symptoms of hemochromatosis in the early stages include joint pain, abdominal pain, fatigue, and weakness. In later stages, the condition may progress to cause more severe symptoms including diabetes, loss of libido, impotency, heart failure, and liver failure.
Q. What is hemosiderosis?
Hemosiderosis is a condition caused due to excess accumulation of an iron-storing protein called hemosiderin in the body. Hemosiderin is formed when Red Blood Cells (RBCs) die at the end of their lifespan. Iron in the RBCs is subsequently stored in Hemosiderin to be recycled later. Hemosiderosis is caused by two factors which include internal bleeding in organs and rapid degeneration of RBCs. Accumulation of Hemosiderin may not show symptoms in the early stages. Symptoms that may appear in later stages with excess accumulation include heavy coughing which may be accompanied by blood, breathing difficulty accompanied by wheezing, fatigue, and weakness, shortness of breath during physical activity, systemic pain, rapid weight loss, and slow growth in children.
Q. Is there any preparation required before the TIBC test?
A fasting period of 8 to 12 hours is prescribed before the test is performed. Inform the doctor of any medications you may be taking. No other specific preparations are usually required before the TIBC Test.
Q. What additional tests can be prescribed by your doctor in case of abnormal TIBC test result?
Additional tests that may be prescribed in case of abnormal TIBC Test result are: · Unsaturated Iron Binding Capacity Test · Complete Blood Count · Hemoglobin and Hematocrit Test · Liver Function Test
Q. Which conditions can cause iron deficiency?
Iron deficiency is a condition which occurs if the iron content of blood falls below the normal levels. Conditions that may cause iron deficiency include: · Iron deficiency anemia · Hemolytic anemia · Malnutrition · Chronic blood loss · Bleeding disorders · Long-term infections · Pregnancy · Cancers, especially lymphoma or leukemia
Q. Which conditions can cause iron overload?
Iron overload is a condition which occurs when the iron levels of blood rise to higher than the normal levels. Conditions that can cause iron overload include: · Hemolysis · Iron poisoning due to overconsumption of iron in diet · Hemochromatosis (excessive iron accumulation) · Multiple blood transfusions · Liver diseases
Q. What are the common symptoms of iron overload?
Common symptoms of iron overload include joint pain, fatigue and weakness, rapid weight loss, pain in chest and abdomen, joint pain, loss of sex drive, and liver damage.
Q. What factors can affect TIBC Test results?
Factors that can affect TIBC Test results include: · Anemia · Pregnancy · Oral contraceptives · Recent blood transfusion · Malnutrition · Liver diseases · Inflammation
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