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Anemia and Surgical Risks

2 min read

female hospital patient with doctor

Having surgery soon? Be sure to ask your doctor to test for anemia before you do. Anemia is a condition characterized by a lack of adequate red blood cells (RBCs). It has many causes, but the most common are iron deficiency, blood loss and disease-related inflammation. A recent study found that anemia can increase your risk of death within 30 days of surgery by 42%. Let’s take a look at what the study results found and how you can lower your risk. 

The study, published in The Lancet, analyzed worldwide data from 227,425 patients undergoing major noncardiac surgery in 211 hospitals. The data was gleaned from The American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database. Patients were categorized based on the severity of their anemia before surgery as mild, moderate or severe. 

 

Most surgeries involve some blood loss, which can exacerbate anemia and increase the risk of complications. 

 

Of the patients analyzed, 69,229 — or just over 30% — were found to have some degree anemia before surgery. Those who did have anemia had a significantly higher risk of post-operative mortality within 30 days. The risk of death was 42% higher and the risk of postoperative complications was 35% higher in those with anemia.

There was significantly increased risk of complications and death across all levels of anemia, but those with severe anemia were at the greatest risk. 

Based on the findings of this study, it is clear that anemia should be addressed if possible before any major surgery. Most surgeries involve some blood loss, which can exacerbate anemia and increase the risk of complications. 

Anemia Tests

Ask your doctor about your potential risk factors and request a blood test. Common tests for diagnosing anemia include:

  • Complete blood count. Counts the total number of blood cells in a blood sample. The important numbers that indicate anemia are hematocrit and hemoglobin. Hematocrit for men is 40-52 and for women 35-47. Normal hemoglobin is usually 14-18 dL for men and 12-16 for women.
  • A test to determine blood cell shape and size.
  • A bone marrow sample. This is not as common, but may be required if anemia is severe.

The underlying cause of the anemia should be addressed before surgery. As we mentioned, anemia can be caused by iron deficiency, blood loss, inflammation or a genetic disorder. Sometimes, the surgery is critical and there might not be enough time to correct the anemia beforehand. This is why it’s important to listen to your doctor for any treatment plan.

Treatment of Anemia

Since anemia is frequently related to iron deficiency, your doctor may prescribe an iron supplement. The problem is that sometimes this doesn’t always increase RBCs right away. Iron supplements can also cause stomach upset.  

Prohemia can help pump up RBC formation, increasing iron levels and  improving your chances for a successful surgical outcome. Prohemia not only provides highly absorbable, tummy-friendly iron — it also boosts the hormone that encourages the bone marrow to make new red blood cells. If you are planning on surgery in the next few months, consider speaking to your doctor about Prohemia and other options for treating your anemia ahead of time.