Preoperative anemia leads to morbidity and mortality

 
By Sheryl Kay • Published: January 10th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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There are many health issues doctors need to assess before you undergo surgery, and now there are indications that an accurate red blood count is more important than ever.

In a study just published in the journal Lancet, those who suffered from untreated anemia, or a low red blood count, just prior to surgery were far more prone to experience postoperative medical problems … and even more likely to die.

Researchers analyzed the medical records of almost 230,000 adult patients who were undergoing major non-cardiac surgery, both elective and non-elective. In all, about 30 percent of the participants, about 70,000 people, had a diagnosis of either mild or moderate anemia just prior to surgery.

The study showed that just 30 days after surgery, those who had identified untreated anemia beforehand were 35 percent more likely to have postoperative issues such as respiratory, urinary and cardiac trouble, and even blood clotting problems. Even more compelling, the investigators found that the risk of death for these patients just one month after surgery was 42 percent higher than for those who were not diagnosed with anemia or those who were treated for the condition prior to their procedure.

The findings also showed that when nine risk factors such as cardiac, pulmonary or central nervous system diseases were also present, there was an even greater risk for sickness or death among the anemic patients who had received no treatments beforehand.

Clearly, the need for a very definitive assessment of a patient’s red blood count is indicated by the results of the study. Researchers say doctors should be encouraged to treat any anemia issues prior to surgery, especially in those instances where excessive blood loss is normally expected.

Worried about your own red blood cell count? Make sure to talk to your doctor or nurse and find out whether you need to be treated.