Impact of a blood management protocol on transfusion rates and outcomes following total hip and knee arthroplasty

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Preoperative anaemia remains undertreated in the UK despite advice from national agencies to implement blood conservation measures. A local retrospective audit of 717 primary hip/knee replacements in 2008-2009 revealed 25% of patients were anaemic preoperatively. These patients experienced significantly increased transfusion requirements and length of stay. We report the results of a simple and pragmatic blood management protocol in a district general hospital.


Since 2010 patients at our institution who are found to be anaemic when listed for hip/knee replacement have been offered iron supplementation and/or erythropoietin depending on haemoglobin and ferritin levels. In this study, postoperative blood transfusions, length of stay and readmissions were assessed retrospectively for all patients undergoing elective primary hip/knee replacement in 2014 and compared with the baseline findings.


During the 12-month study period, 406 patients were eligible for inclusion and none were excluded. Eighty-nine patients (22%) were anaemic preoperatively and sixty-five received treatment. The transfusion rate fell from the baseline levels of 23.0% and 6.7% to 4.3% and 0.5% for hip and knee replacements respectively (p<0.001). The median length of stay reduced from 6 to 3 days (p<0.001) for both hip and knee replacements. The rate for readmissions within 90 days fell from 13.5% to 8.9% (p<0.05).


Preoperative anaemia is common in patients listed for hip/knee replacement and it is associated strongly with increased blood transfusion. The introduction of a blood management protocol has led to significant reductions in transfusion and length of stay, sustained over a four-year period. This suggests that improved patient outcomes, conservation of blood stocks and cost savings can be achieved.

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