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Major Surgeries and Operations Could Prove Deadly for Anaemic Older Men

A recent research has found that major surgeries and operations could prove deadly for anaemic older men. The US research, published in Jama, showed that elderly men with even slightly irregular red blood counts are at a higher risk of dying after major surgery.

The study, which examined data from 310,311 men aged 65 or older, is the first research to demonstrate that even minor anaemia or polycythemia, when the blood count is higher than normal, increases the risk of death after surgery.

For every percentage point of divergence from what is normal, the risk of death or major heart problem rose by 1.6 percent. While doctors have long known that people with confirmed anaemia and very high blood counts are at higher surgical risk, the accurate thresholds at which risk amplifies has never been comprehensible.

Wen-Chih Wu, the lead author of the team at Brown University, said that he hoped the research would transform that and help doctors understand the results of hematocrit tests, which measure the proportion of red blood cells in the blood, in an improved manner.

However, he asserted that it was too early to say whether blood transfusions or iron supplements to perk up the blood cell count would help. Researchers pinned down two reasons for the outcome of their study.

Firstly, elderly men's hearts may have an inadequate ability to recompense for the effects of unusually high or low blood counts when they also have to compete with the pressure of major surgery. But secondly, abnormally high or low blood counts may be caused by an additional condition, which may itself add to mortality in the days after surgery.

Kay-Tee Khaw, Professor of Clinical Gerontology at Cambridge University, welcomed the findings, but said that as a result, treating the blood count "may not necessarily improve surgical outcomes". "The authors have been able to define the ranges of haemocrit associated with out comes after surgery and quantify very specifically the magnitude of increase in risk associated with each point increase or decrease outside this range," the BBC quoted Khaw, as saying.

"This may be important in helping surgeons and physicians identify higher risk groups in those who are having surgery who may for example, warrant more attention," she added.

The team, based at Brown University, examined the medical data of 310, 311 men aged 65 or over who experienced major non-cardiac surgery.

The operations, which included total knee replacements, prostate surgery and hernia repairs among a range of others, took place between 1997 and 2004 in 132 Veterans' Affairs Medical Centers across the US.


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