Background: The incidence of anaemia is high in many chronic conditions, yet it often receives little attention. SCOPE/METHODS: A panel of international experts with experience in haematology, nephrology, oncology, rheumatology and pharmacy was convened to prepare strategic guidelines. A focused literature search was conducted after key issues had been identified. A series of recommendations was agreed, backed, wherever possible, by published evidence which is included in the annotations.
Recommendations: Anaemia is a critical issue for patients with chronic diseases. Healthcare professionals need to recognise that anaemia is a frequent companion of cancer and chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and heart failure. It reduces patients' quality of life and can increase morbidity and mortality. Anaemia should be considered as a disordered process in which the rate of red cell production fails to match the rate of destruction which leads eventually to a reduction in haemoglobin concentration; this process is common to all chronic anaemias. The aim of anaemia management should be to restore patient functionality and quality of life by restoring effective red cell production. Blood transfusion can elevate haemoglobin concentration in the short term but does nothing to address the underlying disorder; red cell transfusion is, therefore, not an appropriate treatment for chronic anaemia. Patients with anaemia of chronic disease may benefit from iron therapy and/or erythropoiesis stimulating agents (ESAs). Intravenous iron should be considered since this can be given safely to patients with chronic diseases while intramuscular iron causes unacceptable adverse effects and oral iron has limited efficacy in chronic anaemia.
Conclusion: The management of anaemia calls for the development of a specialist service together with education of all healthcare professionals and transfer of skills from areas of good practice. Improvement in the management of anaemia requires a fundamental change of attitude from healthcare professionals.