A poor preoperative haemoglobin (Hb) status is frequently encountered among adult patients scheduled for corrective surgery of the locomotive system, representing the main risk factor for blood transfusion. The soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR) has become a highly specific parameter for the detection of iron deficits as it can differentiate between iron deficiency anaemia and anaemia of chronic disease, because of the lack of effect by associated inflammation, unlike ferritin. The objectives of this study were to evaluate patients with the prevalence of risk for transfusion, the effect of inflammation on ferritin (F) values and functional iron deficiency in elderly patients with advanced degenerative arthropathy scheduled for hip or knee replacement. This observational, prospective study included patients over 50 years, operated for hip or knee replacements between April and June 2004. Of 218 patients studied, 87 (39%) presented with Hb levels between 10 and 13 g/dl. The prevalence of functional iron deficit was 27% (sTfR > 1.76 mg/l), while only 8.6% of patients displayed F levels below normal. As expected, C-reactive protein levels were elevated in 24.8% of patients and erythrocyte sedimentation rate was elevated in 50%. These inflammatory markers did not correlate with levels of either F or sTfR. Multiple factors can affect F levels, such as the inflammatory status of osteoarthritis in the elderly, obesity, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs therapy and low physical performance. As sTfR is not affected by inflammation, it has emerged as a primary parameter for the evaluation of iron status during preoperative assessment among patients scheduled for arthroplasty surgery. Our data strongly suggest that sTfR measurement contributes to improve patient management.