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Alternate Names

  • total iron-binding capacity
  • serum iron-binding capacity


Total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) is a blood test that measures the amount of iron that can potentially be stored in blood.

Who is a candidate for the test?

A healthcare professional usually orders this test when he or she suspects anemia, which is a low red blood cell count. This test may also be used to try to determine the type of anemia present.

How is the test performed?

In order to measure the TIBC, a blood sample is needed. The blood is usually taken from a vein in the forearm or hand. The blood is then sent to the laboratory for testing.

What is involved in preparation for the test?

A person should consult his or her health professional for specific instructions before taking the test. Generally, no preparation is required.

What do the test results mean?

This test is commonly ordered at the same time as the serum iron level. The values from these two blood tests are examined together. The pattern of these two tests often gives clues to the type of anemia present.
Normal TIBC varies depending on the age and sex of the person. It can also change during pregnancy. TIBC is increased in iron deficiency anemia, pregnancy, and hepatitis. It can also be increased by the use of oral contraceptives.
TIBC is decreased in starvation, malnutrition, cancer, and hyperthyroidism. Other causes of low TIBC include chronic diseases such as liver disease. The healthcare professional will discuss the test results and any recommended treatment with the individual.


Sorbel, D., MD&Ferguson, T., MD. ( 1985). The People's Book of Medical Tests. New York: Summit Books.

McPhee, SJ&Detmer, WM. (1996). Pocket Guide to Diagnostic Tests (2nd ed.). Appleton&Lange.

Griffith, W., MD. (1988). Complete Guide to Medical Tests. Fisher Books.

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