The Definition of Anemia Matters When Using Preoperative Hemoglobin as a Screening Tool Prior to Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



The Journal of arthroplasty




anemia; preoperative optimization; total hip arthroplasty; total knee arthroplasty; transfusion


BACKGROUND: Preoperative anemia is common in patients undergoing total hip arthroplasty (THA) and total knee arthroplasty (TKA). Several definitions of anemia have been described, with no clear consensus on the optimal one for preoperative screening. We hypothesized that depending on the definition used preoperatively, the proportion of anemic patients identified who would require a postoperative allogeneic blood transfusion would vary significantly. METHODS: A total of 681,141 patients were identified in a national database who underwent either THA or TKA. Preoperative anemia was classified according to the World Health Organization (WHO) definition, Cleveland Clinic (CC) definition, or race, age, and sex-specific definition described by Beutler et al in 2006. The optimal preoperative (OP) hemoglobin thresholds to predict perioperative transfusions were also calculated using receiver operating characteristic curves. RESULTS: When using the WHO definition, 18% of anemic patients required a transfusion versus 14% (OP definition), 12% (CC definition), and 16% (Beutler definition). Similarly, 0.69% of anemic patients sustained a periprosthetic joint infection within 30 days using the WHO definition versus 0.59% (OP definition), 0.60% (CC definition), or 0.66% (Beutler definition). Using the WHO definition, 5.3% of patients would have sustained a major complication versus 4.5% (OP definition), 4.4% (CC definition), and 5.0% (Beutler definition). CONCLUSIONS: Variation in the definition of anemia for preoperative screening in THA and TKA results in substantial differences in discriminative ability to predict perioperative transfusions. The WHO definition identified the largest proportion of patients who ultimately received a perioperative transfusion.


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