Anemia Could Add to Surgical Risks

THURSDAY Oct. 6, 2011 -- Anemia increases the risk of death and complications in patients who have different types of surgery, not just heart operations, a new study says.

It was known that patients with anemia have worse outcomes after heart surgery, but anemia's impact on non-cardiac surgical outcomes wasn't clear. People with anemia are deficient in red blood cells.

For the new study, researchers analyzed data from more than 227,000 U.S. patients who had various types of surgery: general, vascular, orthopedic, gynecological, urological, neurosurgical, otolaryngological, plastic and thoracic. Of the patients in the study, 69,229 had anemia before their surgery.

The risk of death within 30 days after surgery was 42 percent higher among the patients with anemia, who were also 35 percent more likely to have postoperative troubles, such as cardiac, respiratory, urinary, wound, sepsis and blood clot problems, the study found.

The increased risk of death ranged from 41 percent for patients with mild anemia to 44 percent for those with moderate-to-severe anemia. The increased risk of postoperative problems ranged from 31 percent for those with mild anemia to 56 percent for those with moderate-to-severe anemia, the researchers said.

"Because even mild anemia increases the risk of postoperative morbidity and mortality in patients undergoing major non-cardiac surgery, doctors need to consider preoperative treatment of anemia when possible. Further research is needed to establish the efficacy, safety, and cost-effectiveness of such preoperative anemia management," the researchers at the American University of Beirut Medical Center in Lebanon concluded in a journal news release.

The study appeared online Oct. 5 and will appear in an upcoming special surgery issue of The Lancet.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about anemia.

Posted: October 2011


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