A Multicenter Study on Endocrine Disorders in Thalassemia — Introduction
The distribution of β-thalassemia major throught out the world has clearly shown the highest prevalence along a belt which includes the Mediterranean area and spans through the Middle East, to India and East Asia. In 1988 the WHO reported that 240,000 children per year are born with a major hemoglobinopathy — 20% with thalassemias and 80% with the sickle cell syndrome. The total number of thalassemic patients transfused and followed up at Italian centers estimated on December 31, 1984 was 4497. During the past 20 years endocrine complications in thalassemia have been an area of tremendous interest to clinicians and scientists working in many different fields. Expansion and subspecialization in endocrinological investigations indicate an ongoing, healthy developmental process; neverthless, they carry the risk of fragmenting the single body into uncollated segments and mark the current approach to endocrine complications in thalassemia as too sophisticated. For this reason, I am certain that all of us are grateful to the organizing comittee for having planned this International Mediterranean Conference and for giving us an opportunity to collect and share the experiences from different countries. Prof. Ando has asked me to introduce a round table, based on my personal experience with the multicenter study that we have organized in the past 3 years in Italy on endocrine complications in thalassemia. We met for the first time in March 1989 at the Pediatric Endocrine Meeting in Pisa, and our primary aims were to obtain more information on the incidence of endocrine complications in thalassemia, to plan future studies, and do an in-depth analysis of the data obtained. A standard form was specially designed to record all the information that we required. At present we are using a particular form for each endocrine complication.