Anemia in Critically Ill Patients With Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and Posthospitalization Physical Outcomes

J Intensive Care Med. 2021 May;36(5):557-565. doi: 10.1177/0885066620913262. Epub 2020 Mar 24.


Objective: Anemia is common during critical illness and often persists after hospital discharge; however, its potential association with physical outcomes after critical illness is unclear. Our objective was to assess the associations between hemoglobin at intensive care unit (ICU) and hospital discharge with physical status at 3-month follow-up in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) survivors.

Methods: This is a secondary analysis of a multisite prospective cohort study of 195 mechanically ventilated ARDS survivors from 13 ICUs at 4 teaching hospitals in Baltimore, Maryland. Multivariable regression was utilized to assess the relationships between ICU and hospital discharge hemoglobin concentrations with measures of physical status at 3 months, including muscle strength (Medical Research Council sumscore), exercise capacity (6-minute walk distance [6MWD]), and self-reported physical functioning (36-Item Short-Form Health Survey [SF-36v2] Physical Function score and Activities of Daily Living [ADL] dependencies).

Results: Median (interquartile range) hemoglobin concentrations at ICU and hospital discharge were 9.5 (8.5-10.7) and 10.0 (9.0-11.2) g/dL, respectively. In multivariable regression analyses, higher ICU discharge hemoglobin concentrations (per 1 g/dL) were associated with greater 3-month 6MWD mean percent of predicted (3.7% [95% confidence interval 0.8%-6.5%]; P = .01) and fewer ADL dependencies (-0.2 [-0.4 to -0.1]; P = .02), but not with percentage of maximal muscle strength (0.7% [-0.9 to 2.3]; P = .37) or SF-36v2 normalized Physical Function scores (0.8 [-0.3 to 1.9]; P = .15). The associations of physical outcomes and hospital discharge hemoglobin concentrations were qualitatively similar, but none were statistically significant.

Conclusions: In ARDS survivors, higher hemoglobin concentrations at ICU discharge, but not hospital discharge, were significantly associated with improved exercise capacity and fewer ADL dependencies. Future studies are warranted to further assess these relationships.

Keywords: adult; anemia; critical care; critical care outcomes; follow-up studies; patient outcome assessment; physical functional performance; respiratory distress syndrome.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Anemia*
  • Critical Illness
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome* / therapy