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Pre-operative anaemia and transfusion are common among patients undergoing elective orthopaedic surgery. Application of ‘patient blood management’ might be the most effective way to reduce both anaemia and transfusion. Pre-operative administration of iron and/or erythropoietin (EPO) is one of the cornerstones of the first pillar of patient blood management, but in a daily clinical setting, efficacy and long-term safety of this measure have not been analysed thoroughly to date.To investigate the influence of pre-operative preparation (PREP) of patients with iron and/or EPO on peri-operative transfusion needs and long-term survival.Single-centre, retrospective study.Anaesthesia department, University hospital.Pre-operative preparation with iron and/or EPO versus no preparation.After approval of our local ethics committee, data of 5518 patients who received total hip or total knee replacement between 2008 and 2014 were included. Patients receiving iron and/or EPO were included in the PREP group, whereas patients without iron and/or EPO were included in the no preparation group. From the full data set, a bias-reduced subset of 662 patients was obtained by means of propensity score-matching to compare peri-operative red blood cell utilisation and long-term survival of patients between groups.Patients in the PREP group needed a lower number of units of red blood cells than patients in the no preparation group (0.2 ± 0.8 vs. 0.5 ± 1.3, P < 0.001), had a lower transfusion rate (12 vs. 24%, P < 0.05) and had a similar haemoglobin concentration (10.7 ± 1.3 vs. 10.6 ± 1.1 g dl−1, not significant) at discharge. No differences in long-term survival were observed between the two study groups.PREP of patients with iron and/or EPO in orthopaedic patients can be considered highly effective in terms of transfusion reduction, without influencing long-term survival.