Background: Cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) measures peak exertional oxygen consumption ( V˙O2peak ) and that at the anaerobic threshold ( V˙O2 at AT, i.e. the point at which anaerobic metabolism contributes substantially to overall metabolism). Lower values are associated with excess postoperative morbidity and mortality. A reduced haemoglobin concentration ([Hb]) results from a reduction in total haemoglobin mass (tHb-mass) or an increase in plasma volume. Thus, tHb-mass might be a more useful measure of oxygen-carrying capacity and might correlate better with CPET-derived fitness measures in preoperative patients than does circulating [Hb].
Methods: Before major elective surgery, CPET was performed, and both tHb-mass (optimized carbon monoxide rebreathing method) and circulating [Hb] were determined.
Results: In 42 patients (83% male), [Hb] was unrelated to V˙O2 at AT and V˙O2peak ( r =0.02, P =0.89 and r =0.04, P =0.80, respectively) and explained none of the variance in either measure. In contrast, tHb-mass was related to both ( r =0.661, P <0.0001 and r =0.483, P =0.001 for V˙O2 at AT and V˙O2peak , respectively). The tHb-mass explained 44% of variance in V˙O2 at AT ( P <0.0001) and 23% in V˙O2peak ( P =0.001).
Conclusions: In contrast to [Hb], tHb-mass is an important determinant of physical fitness before major elective surgery. Further studies should determine whether low tHb-mass is predictive of poor outcome and whether targeted increases in tHb-mass might thus improve outcome.
Keywords: anaemia; anaerobic threshold; cardiopulmonary exercise test; oxygen consumption; physical fitness; surgery.
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Journal of Anaesthesia. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org