Is anemia associated with cognitive impairment and delirium among older acute surgical patients?

Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2018 Jul;18(7):1025-1030. doi: 10.1111/ggi.13293. Epub 2018 Mar 1.


Aim: The determinants of cognitive impairment and delirium during acute illness are poorly understood, despite being common among older people. Anemia is common in older people, and there is ongoing debate regarding the association between anemia, cognitive impairment and delirium, primarily in non-surgical patients.

Methods: Using data from the Older Persons Surgical Outcomes Collaboration 2013 and 2014 audit cycles, we examined the association between anemia and cognitive outcomes in patients aged ≥65 years admitted to five UK acute surgical units. On admission, the Confusion Assessment Method was carried out to detect delirium. Cognition was assessed using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, and two levels of impairment were defined as Montreal Cognitive Assessment <26 and <20. Logistic regression models were constructed to examine these associations in all participants, and individuals aged ≥75 years only.

Results: A total of 653 patients, with a median age of 76.5 years (interquartile range 73.0-80.0 years) and 53% women, were included. Statistically significant associations were found between anemia and age; polypharmacy; hyperglycemia; and hypoalbuminemia. There was no association between anemia and cognitive impairment or delirium. The adjusted odds ratios of cognitive impairment were 0.95 (95% CI 0.56-1.61) and 1.00 (95% CI 0.61-1.64) for the Montreal Cognitive Assessment <26 and <20, respectively. The adjusted odds ratio of delirium was 1.00 (95% CI 0.48-2.10) in patients with anemia compared with those without. Similar results were observed for the ≥75 years age group.

Conclusions: There was no association between anemia and cognitive outcomes among older people in this acute surgical setting. Considering the retrospective nature of the study and possible lack of power, findings should be taken with caution. Geriatr Gerontol Int 2018; 18: 1025-1030.

Keywords: anemia; cognitive impairment; delirium; older surgical patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anemia / epidemiology*
  • Anemia / physiopathology
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Dementia / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods*
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / physiopathology
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative
  • United Kingdom