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Patient blood management (PBM) can prevent preoperative anaemia, but little is known about practice in Europe.To assess the pre and postoperative prevalence and perioperative management of anaemia in patients undergoing elective orthopaedic surgery in Europe.An observational study; data were collected from patient records via electronic case report forms.Seventeen centres in six European countries. Centres were stratified according to whether they had a PBM programme or not.One thousand five hundred and thirty-four patients undergoing major elective hip, knee or spine surgery [49.9% hip, 37.2% knee, 13.0% spine; age 64.0 years (range 18 to 80), 61.3% female].Prevalence of preoperative (primary endpoint) and postoperative anaemia [haemoglobin (Hb) <13 g dl−1 (male), Hb <12 g dl−1 (female)], perioperative anaemia management, time to first blood transfusion and number of transfused units. Data are shown as mean (SD) or median (interquartile range).Anaemia prevalence increased from 14.1% preoperatively to 85.8% postoperatively. Mean Hb decrease was 1.9 (1.5) and 3.0 (1.3) g dl−1 in preoperatively anaemic and nonanaemic patients, respectively (P < 0.001). In PBM (n = 7) vs. non-PBM centres, preoperative anaemia was less frequent (8.0 vs. 18.5%; P < 0.001) and iron status was assessed more frequently (ferritin 11.0 vs. 2.6%, transferrin saturation 11.0 vs. 0.1%; P < 0.001). Perioperative anaemia correction (mainly transfusion) was given to 34.3%. Intraoperatively, 14.8% of preoperatively anaemic and 2.8% of nonanaemic patients received transfusions [units per patient: 2.4 (1.5) and 2.2 (1.4), median time to first intraoperative transfusion: 130 (88, 158) vs. 179 (135, 256) min; P < 0.001]. Postoperative complications were more frequent in preoperatively anaemic vs. nonanaemic patients (36.9 vs. 22.2%; P = 0.009).Most patients who underwent elective orthopaedic surgery had normal preoperative Hb levels but became anaemic after the procedure. Those who were anaemic prior to surgery had an increased intraoperative transfusion risk and postoperative complication rate. PBM measures such as iron status assessment and strategies to avoid transfusion are still underused in Europe.