New research conducted at UT Southwestern Medical Center has found that one in three patients admitted to hospital develop anemia as a result. This hospital-acquired anemia was associated with a higher risk of hospital readmission or patient death.
The researchers identified this link in a study of 11,000 patients receiving care in six hospitals. The details of the study were published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.
“This study shines a spotlight on a very common but underappreciated risk of hospitalization, hospital-acquired anemia, which has traditionally been viewed as an incidental change in the red blood count of no significance,” said senior study author Dr. Ethan Halm, Director of UT Southwestern’s Center for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research and Chief of the William T. and Gay F. Solomon Division of General Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern.
Some patients are admitted to hospital with a normal blood cell count, but due in part to frequent blood draws for diagnostic testing, they can develop anemia during their stay. Halm and his colleagues found that patients with severe anemia faced a 39 percent increased risk of being readmitted to hospital or dying within 30 days of being discharged.
The most severe form of hospital-acquired anemia – occurring in 1.4 percent of patients in this study – was defined as a hematocrit of 27 percent or less when the patient was discharged. “This is the first study of post-discharge adverse outcomes of hospital-acquired anemia among a diverse group of patients who were hospitalized for different reasons,” said primary study author Dr. Anil Makam, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Sciences and a member of the Center for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research.
The researchers identified multiple risk factors that contributed to patients developing hospital-acquired anemia. “Our findings suggest that reducing blood loss during major surgeries and reducing unnecessary testing during hospital stays may lower a patient’s risk of developing severe hospital-acquired anemia, and potentially improve their recovery,” said Makam.
Two potentially modifiable variables – the length of a patient’s stay in hospital and whether they had undergone major surgery – were the most compelling predictors of hospital-acquired anemia. Halm and Makam hope to study other patient outcomes which could be influenced by hospital-acquired anemia, such as functional impairment, fatigue and recovery.