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Blood Transfus. 2018 Oct 16:1-8. doi: 10.2450/2018.0156-18. [Epub ahead of print]

Prevention and management of acute reactions to intravenous iron in surgical patients.

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Perioperative Transfusion Medicine, Department of Surgical Specialties, Biochemistry and Immunology, School of Medicine, University of Málaga, Spain.
Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital Virgen de la Victoria, Málaga, Spain.
Departments of Anaesthesiology, Critical Care and Hyperbaric Medicine, Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, Englewood, New Jersey, United States of America.
TeamHealth Research Institute, Englewood, NJ, United States of America.
Institute of Anaesthesiology, University and University Hospital of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, Georgetown University Washington, DC, United States of America.
Italian National Blood Centre, National Institute of Health, Rome, Italy.


Absolute or functional iron deficiency is the most prevalent cause of anaemia in surgical patients, and its correction is a fundamental strategy within "Patient Blood Management" programmes. Offering perioperative oral iron for treating iron deficiency anaemia is still recommended, but intravenous iron has been demonstrated to be superior in most cases. However, the long-standing prejudice against intravenous iron administration, which is thought to induce anaphylaxis, hypotension and shock, still persists. With currently available intravenous iron formulations, minor infusion reactions are not common. These self-limited reactions are due to labile iron and not hypersensitivity. Aggressively treating infusion reactions with H1-antihistamines or vasopressors should be avoided. Self-limited hypotension during intravenous iron infusion could be considered to be due to hypersensitivity or vascular reaction to labile iron. Acute hypersensitivity reactions to current intravenous iron formulation are believed to be caused by complement activation-related pseudo-allergy. However, though exceedingly rare (<1:250,000 administrations), they should not be ignored, and intravenous iron should be administered only at facilities where staff is trained to evaluate and manage these reactions. As preventive measures, prior to the infusion, staff should inform all patients about infusion reactions and identify those patients with increased risk of hypersensitivity or contraindications for intravenous iron. Infusion should be started at a low rate for a few minutes. In the event of a reaction, the very first intervention should be the immediate cessation of the infusion, followed by evaluation of severity and treatment. An algorithm to scale the intensity of treatment to the clinical picture and/or response to therapy is presented.

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