Optimisation of pre-operative anaemia in patients before elective major surgery - why, who, when and how?

Anaesthesia. 2019 Jan;74 Suppl 1:49-57. doi: 10.1111/anae.14466.


Anaemia in surgical patients is a common and serious problem; around 40% of patients presenting for major surgery are anaemic. Patients with pre-operative anaemia have significantly higher rates of morbidity and mortality and are likely to be transfused red cells. In addition, red cell transfusions are independently associated with worse outcomes. Pre-optimisation of anaemia in surgical patients leads to higher pre-operative haemoglobin concentrations and less need for transfusion. Patients undergoing major surgery (defined as blood loss > 500 ml expected or possible) should be optimised if their haemoglobin concentration is less than 130 g.l-1 on screening. Detection of anaemia should follow listing for surgery as soon as possible to allow enough time for optimisation. The most common cause of pre-operative anaemia is iron deficiency, which can be treated with iron therapy. Iron clinics should be set up in either primary or secondary care to allow for optimal treatment. In this review, we present literature supporting the optimisation of pre-operative anaemia and propose a treatment algorithm.

Keywords: anaemia; pre-operative; transfusion; treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia / diagnosis*
  • Anemia / therapy*
  • Elective Surgical Procedures*
  • Humans
  • Iron / therapeutic use
  • Preoperative Care / methods*


  • Iron