BOSTON – A pilot anemia optimization program resulted in significant increases in day-of-surgery hemoglobin levels and reductions in RBC transfusion rates and costs in one center, but whether patient outcomes also improved is still not known.
By diagnosing anemia at the preanesthesia visit and providing anemic patients with dietary guidance and supplementation prior to cardiac surgery, blood program managers noticed a more than $360 reduction in per-patient blood-product acquisition costs, a more than $1,800 average reduction per patient in transfusion costs, and overall cost savings of more than $100,000 over 18 months, compared with historical data.
The findings were reported by Christine M. Cahill, RN, from Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y., and the University of Rochester (N.Y.), at AABB 2018, the annual meeting of the group formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks.
“Anemia has been thought of as a relatively benign thing our patients live with traditionally, but what we have been finding lately is that anemia is actually more serious than we once thought, and is an independent risk factor for hospitalization, readmission, increased patient length of stay, loss of function, and diminished quality of life,” she said.
Anemia also increases the likelihood that a patient will require allogeneic transfusions and is an independent risk factor for morbidity and mortality, she added.
The pilot program, which ran from February 2016 to September 2017, was designed to test the feasibility of diagnosing anemia during a cardiology consult visit and implementing a management plan.
During the study period, 240 patients presenting for elective cardiac surgery were screened for anemia, and 58 were diagnosed as anemic, defined as a hemoglobin level of less than 12 g/dL. These patients were referred for anemia work-ups, which found that 33 patients had iron-deficient anemia and 25 had anemia from other causes. Controls were patients who underwent cardiac surgery from March to July 2015, matched by age, sex, and procedures.
Treatments for iron-deficient patients included oral iron (7 patients), intravenous iron with or without folate (20 patients), or oral folate with or without vitamin B12 (5 patients). One iron-deficient patient could not have surgery delayed for anemia management.
Of the iron-replete patients, one received oral iron and 17 received folate plus or minus vitamin B12. The remaining seven iron-replete patients were not treated for anemia.
One iron-deficient patient had a reaction to the infusion and did not receive a scheduled second dose due to the need for immediate surgery. A second patient scheduled for intravenous iron and folate broke an arm and therefore missed an intravenous infusion appointment. No other complications or reactions occurred.
Intraoperative transfusion units used in the anemia management group totaled 10, compared with 68 for controls. Postoperative transfusion units used were also significantly lower following anemia management at 13 versus 122, respectively.
The rate of RBC transfusions among patients with anemia management was 24%, compared with 60% for controls (P less than .0001). Patients in the management program also had significantly higher day-of-surgery hemoglobin, at 11.01 g/dL versus 10.16 g/dL (P less than .001), and less RBC utilization, at an average 0.40 units per patient versus 2.07 for controls (P less than .0001).
The average per patient savings in acquisition costs was $367.40, the average transfusion cost saving was $1,837, and the total cost savings over the life of the pilot program was $106,546.
The keys to success for similar programs is “to make sure you do your homework,” Ms. Cahill said. Specifically, she recommended feasibility studies, evaluation of the potential impact of infusions on the service, work flow analyses, and cost analyses. It’s also important to get high-level administrative support as well as buy-in from surgeons and patients.
Future studies should include assessment of patient outcomes, safety, and length of ICU and hospital stay, she emphasized.
The study was internally funded. Ms. Cahill reported having no conflicts of interest.
SOURCE: Cahill CM et al. AABB 2018, Abstract P.