Anemia in critical illness: insights into etiology, consequences, and management

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2012 May 15;185(10):1049-57. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201110-1915CI. Epub 2012 Jan 26.


Anemia is common in the intensive care unit, and may be associated with adverse consequences. However, current options for correcting anemia are not without problems and presently lack convincing efficacy for improving survival in critically ill patients. In this article we review normal red blood cell physiology; etiologies of anemia in the intensive care unit; its association with adverse outcomes; and the risks, benefits, and efficacy of various management strategies, including blood transfusion, erythropoietin, blood substitutes, iron therapy, and minimization of diagnostic phlebotomy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia* / etiology
  • Anemia* / mortality
  • Anemia* / physiopathology
  • Anemia* / therapy
  • Critical Care
  • Critical Illness* / mortality
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion
  • Erythrocytes / physiology
  • Erythropoietin / therapeutic use
  • Hematinics / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Iron / therapeutic use
  • Trace Elements / therapeutic use


  • Hematinics
  • Trace Elements
  • Erythropoietin
  • Iron