Background: Low haemoglobin concentration has been associated with adverse prognosis in patients with angina and myocardial infarction (MI), but the strength and shape of the association and the presence of any threshold has not been precisely evaluated.
Methods and findings: A retrospective cohort study was carried out using the UK General Practice Research Database. 20,131 people with a new diagnosis of stable angina and no previous acute coronary syndrome, and 14,171 people with first MI who survived for at least 7 days were followed up for a mean of 3.2 years. Using semi-parametric Cox regression and multiple adjustment, there was evidence of threshold haemoglobin values below which mortality increased in a graded continuous fashion. For men with MI, the threshold value was 13.5 g/dl (95% confidence interval [CI] 13.2-13.9); the 29.5% of patients with haemoglobin below this threshold had an associated hazard ratio for mortality of 2.00 (95% CI 1.76-2.29) compared to those with haemoglobin values in the lowest risk range. Women tended to have lower threshold haemoglobin values (e.g, for MI 12.8 g/dl; 95% CI 12.1-13.5) but the shape and strength of association did not differ between the genders, nor between patients with angina and MI. We did a systematic review and meta-analysis that identified ten previously published studies, reporting a total of only 1,127 endpoints, but none evaluated thresholds of risk.
Conclusions: There is an association between low haemoglobin concentration and increased mortality. A large proportion of patients with coronary disease have haemoglobin concentrations below the thresholds of risk defined here. Intervention trials would clarify whether increasing the haemoglobin concentration reduces mortality.