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Anesthesiology. 2009 Mar;110(3):574-81. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0b013e31819878d3.

Risk associated with preoperative anemia in noncardiac surgery: a single-center cohort study.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesia, University Health Network, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. scott.beattie@uhn.on.ca



Preoperative anemia is an important risk factor for perioperative red blood cell transfusions and has been shown to be independently associated with adverse outcomes after noncardiac surgery. The objective of this observational study was to measure the prevalence of preoperative anemia and assess the relationship between preoperative anemia and postoperative mortality.


Data were retrospectively collected on 7,759 consecutive noncardiac surgical patients at the University Health Network between 2003 and 2006. Preoperative anemia was defined as a hemoglobin concentration less than 12.0 g/dl for women and less than 13.0 g/dl for men. The unadjusted and adjusted relationship between preoperative anemia and mortality was assessed using logistic regression and propensity analyses.


Preoperative anemia was common and equal between genders (39.5% for men and 39.9% for women) and was associated with a nearly five-fold increase in the odds of postoperative mortality. After adjustment for major confounders using logistic regression, anemia was still associated with increased mortality (odds ratio, 2.36; 95% confidence interval, 1.57-3.41). This relationship was unchanged after elimination of patients with severe anemia and patients who received transfusions. In a propensity-matched cohort of patients, anemia was associated with increased mortality (odds ratio, 2.29; 95% confidence interval, 1.45-3.63).


Anemia is a common condition in surgical patients and is independently associated with increased mortality. Although anemia increases mortality independent of transfusion, it is associated with increased requirement for transfusion, which is also associated with increased mortality. Treatment of preoperative anemia should be the focus of investigations for the reduction of perioperative risk.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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