Iron overload from repeated transfusions of RBCs in long-term hemodialysis patients is a problem of increasing clinical significance. We report on the prevalence of and diagnostic criteria for identification of hemodialysis patients with iron overload. In 150 unselected hemodialysis patients, 62 (41%) had ferritin levels greater than 2,000 ng/mL (normal = 10 to 360 ng/mL). In 16 of these patients, accurate transfusion histories were obtained and ferritin levels correlated with calculated transfusional iron burden (r = 0.553, P less than .05). These patients could be divided into two distinct groups on the basis of their response to a single dose (2 g, IV) of deferoxamine: "high" responders had twice the level of feroxamine (the chelated product of deferoxamine and iron) of the "low" responders (P less than .001). High responders also had significantly higher prevalence of the "hemochromatosis" alleles A3, B7, and B14 than a large group of dialysis patients awaiting transplantation (71% v 37%, P less than .001). In two patients with iron overload and clinically significant bone disease, bone histology revealed prominent iron staining at the calcification front. We conclude that transfusional iron overload is a significant clinical problem in long-term hemodialysis patients, that may also be associated with bone pathology.