BACKGROUND: Anaemia and iron deficiency are frequent in patients scheduled for cardiac surgery. This study assessed whether immediate preoperative treatment could result in reduced perioperative red blood cell (RBC) transfusions and improved outcome.
METHODS: In this single-centre, randomised, double-blind, parallel-group controlled study, patients undergoing elective cardiac surgery with anaemia (n=253; haemoglobin concentration (Hb) <120 g/L in women and Hb <130 g/L in men) or isolated iron deficiency (n=252; ferritin <100 mcg/L, no anaemia) were enrolled. Participants were randomly assigned (1:1) with the use of a computer-generated range minimisation (allocation probability 0·8) to receive either placebo or combination treatment consisting of a slow infusion of 20 mg/kg ferric carboxymaltose, 40 000 U subcutaneous erythropoietin alpha, 1 mg subcutaneous vitamin B12, and 5 mg oral folic acid or placebo on the day before surgery. Primary outcome was the number of RBC transfusions during the first 7 days. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT02031289.
FINDINGS: Between Jan 9, 2014, and July 19, 2017, 1006 patients were enrolled; 505 with anaemia or isolated iron deficiency and 501 in the registry. The combination treatment significantly reduced RBC transfusions from a median of one unit in the placebo group (IQR 0-3) to zero units in the treatment group (0-2, during the first 7 days (odds ratio 0·70 [95% CI 0·50-0·98] for each threshold of number of RBC transfusions, p=0·036) and until postoperative day 90 (p=0·018). Despite fewer RBC units transfused, patients in the treatment group had a higher haemoglobin concentration, higher reticulocyte count, and a higher reticulocyte haemoglobin content during the first 7 days (p≤0·001). Combined allogeneic transfusions were less in the treatment group (0 [IQR 0-2]) versus the placebo group (1 [0-3]) during the first 7 days (p=0·038) and until postoperative day 90 (p=0·019). 73 (30%) serious adverse events were reported in the treatment group group versus 79 (33%) in the placebo group.
INTERPRETATION: An ultra-short-term combination treatment with intravenous iron, subcutaneous erythropoietin alpha, vitamin B12, and oral folic acid reduced RBC and total allogeneic blood product transfusions in patients with preoperative anaemia or isolated iron deficiency undergoing elective cardiac surgery.