From the Journals

In-hospital blood saving strategy appears safe with anemia

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Aim to treat anemia, not tolerate it

Some scrutiny is warranted of the observation of Roubinian et al. that long-term transfusion, readmission, and mortality outcomes were apparently unaffected by decreased in-hospital RBC transfusions, according to the authors of an accompanying editorial.

“Missing here is a wide spectrum of morbidity outcomes and issues related to diminished quality of life that do not reach the level of severity that would necessitate admission but nonetheless detract from patients’ health and well-being,” wrote Aryeh Shander, MD, and Lawrence Tim Goodnough, MD.

Moreover, transfusion rate is not a clinical outcome, they noted, adding that readmission and mortality are important outcomes but that they do not accurately or fully reflect patient well-being.

While blood management initiatives may be a safe practice, as Roubinian et al. found, proper management of anemia after discharge may actually improve outcomes, given the many consequences of anemia.

Instead of again testing whether restricting transfusions is acceptable because of lack of impact on outcomes, future studies could evaluate a “more sensible” hypothesis that proper anemia management – especially post discharge – could improve outcomes.

“Let’s increase efforts to prevent and treat anemia properly, rather than requiring patients to tolerate it,” they wrote.

Dr. Shander is with Englewood (N.J.) Hospital and Medical Center; Dr. Goodnough is with Stanford (Calif.) University. Dr. Shander reported consulting fees from Vifor and AMAG. Dr. Goodnough reported having no relevant financial disclosures. Their comments are taken from an accompanying editorial (Ann Intern Med. 2018 Dec 18. doi: 10.7326/M18-3145).



A blood management initiative that reduced RBC transfusions in the hospital did not adversely impact long-term outcomes after discharge, a retrospective analysis of an extensive patient database suggested.

Blood bags Vlad/Fotolia

Tolerating moderate in-hospital anemia did not increase subsequent RBC use, readmission, or mortality over the next 6 months, according to results of the study, which drew on nearly half a million patient records.

In fact, modest mortality decreases were seen over time for patients with moderate anemia, perhaps because of concomitant initiatives that targeted infectious and circulatory conditions, reported Nareg H. Roubinian, MD, of Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland and the University of California, San Francisco, and coinvestigators.

“These data support the efficacy and safety of practice recommendations to limit red blood cell transfusion in patients with anemia during and after hospitalization,” Dr. Roubinian and colleagues wrote in their report, which appears in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

However, additional studies are needed to guide anemia management, they wrote, particularly since persistent anemia has impacts on quality of life that are “likely substantial” and linked to the severity of that anemia.

Dr. Roubinian and colleagues sought to evaluate the impact of blood management programs – initiated starting in 2010 – that included blood-sparing surgical and medical techniques, increased use of hemostatic and cell salvage agents, and treatment of suboptimal iron stores before surgery.

In previous retrospective cohort studies, the researchers had found that the blood conservation strategies did not impact in-hospital or 30-day mortality rates, which was consistent with short-term safety data from clinical trials and other observational studies.

Their latest report on longer-term outcomes was based on data from Kaiser Permanente Northern California for 445,371 adults who had 801,261 hospitalizations with discharges between 2010 and 2014. In this cohort, moderate anemia (hemoglobin between 7 g/dL and 10 g/dL) at discharge occurred in 119,489 patients (27%) and 187,440 hospitalizations overall (23%).

Over the 2010-2014 period, RBC transfusions decreased by more than 25% in the inpatient and outpatient settings; and in parallel, the prevalence of moderate anemia at hospital discharge increased from 20% to 25%.

However, the risks of subsequent RBC transfusions and rehospitalization after discharge with anemia decreased during the study period, and mortality rates stayed steady or decreased slightly.

Among patients with moderate anemia, the proportion with subsequent RBC transfusions within 6 months decreased from 18.9% in 2010 to 16.8% in 2014 (P less than .001), while the rate of rehospitalization within 6 months decreased from 36.5% to 32.8% over that same time period (P less than .001).

The adjusted 6-month mortality rate likewise decreased from 16.1% to 15.6% (P = .004) over that time period among patients with moderate anemia.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Dr. Roubinian and several coauthors reported grants during the conduct of the study from the National Institutes of Health.

SOURCE: Roubinian NH et al. Ann Intern Med. 2018 Dec 18. doi: 10.7326/M17-3253.

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