Outcomes of long-term iron supplementation in pediatric restless legs syndrome/periodic limb movement disorder (RLS/PLMD)

Thomas J. Dye, Sejal V. Jain, Narong Simakajornboon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Objectives Restless legs syndrome (RLS) and periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) are thought to center around a genetically mediated sensitivity to iron insufficiency. Previous studies have shown the effectiveness of short-term iron therapy in children with low iron storage. Little is known, however, about long-term iron treatment in children with RLS and PLMD. Therefore, we performed this study to assess the long-term effect of iron therapy in children with RLS and PLMD. Methods A retrospective chart review was performed for children who met the following criteria: A) diagnosed as having either RLS or PLMD, B) started on iron supplementation, C) followed up for >2 years in a sleep clinic. Baseline values for iron, ferritin, and periodic limb movement of sleep index (PLMS index) were defined in the three months leading up to the initiation of iron therapy. Values were also computed for follow-up periods of 3–6 months, 1–2 years, and >2 years. Serum iron and ferritin levels and PLMS index were compared between baseline and all subsequent follow-ups. Results In total, 105 patients met inclusion criteria, of whom 64 were diagnosed with PLMD alone, seven with RLS alone, and 35 with both RLS and PLMD. The average age was 10.2 ± 5.3 years. Compared to the baseline (27.4 ± 12.1 ng/ml), the average ferritin values at 3–6 months (45.62 ± 21.2 ng/ml, p < 0.001, n = 34), 1–2 years (52.0 ± 48.3 ng/ml, p < 0.001, n = 63), and >2 years (54.7 ± 40.5 ng/ml, p < 0.001, n = 67) were all significantly increased. Inversely, compared to baseline (21 ± 27.0/h, n = 66), PLMS index values at 3–6 months (7.5 ± 9.5/h p < 0.05, n = 11), 1–2 years (6.9 ± 8.9/h, p < 0.001, n = 29), and >2 years (10 ± 14.5/h, p < 0.001, n = 31) were all significantly decreased. No significant change in serum iron levels was noted at any time point. Conclusion While retrospective in nature, this study demonstrates a sustained improvement in PLMS index and maintenance of adequate ferritin levels >2 years after iron therapy initiation in our RLS/PLMD cohort with a long-term follow-up. Iron therapy appears to lead to long-lasting improvements in children with RLS/PLMD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-219
Number of pages7
JournalSleep Medicine
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Ferritin
  • Iron
  • Pediatric sleep medicine
  • Periodic limb movements
  • Restless legs syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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