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Are Hospitals Making Heart Patients Anemic?

According to a recent article printed in the Archives of Internal Medicine, one in five people admitted to the hospital due to heart attack develop moderate to severe anemia due to so many diagnostic test that require blood.

"This is not just a lab abnormality, these patients actually feel worse after they leave the hospital. Mortality is higher, too." said study senior author Dr. Mikhail Kosiborod, a cardiologist with St. Luke's Hospital Mid-America Heart & Vascular Institute in Kansas City, Mo

Anemia occurs when the number of red blood cells falls below a certain amount. These blood cells are critical for carrying oxygen to different parts of the body. According to researchers about half of the heart attack patients admitted to the hospital with normal red blood cell counts are leaving with anemia or a low red blood cell count with no complications to account for the abnormality which lead researchers to think that the anemia was due to the large amount of blood drawn for diagnostic testing.

"Drawing blood in a hospital is typically a very common occurrence, particularly in the intensive care unit," said Kosiborod, who is also an associate professor of medicine at the University of Missouri in Kansas City.

The study looked at the records of 18,000 patients who had normal hemoglobin levels when admitted to a total of 57 different US hospitals and found that 20% developed moderate to severe anemia during their stay. Those who developed anemia actually had 100 ML more blood drawn then those who did not develop this troubling problem.

One solution to the problem seems to be simply ordering fewer blood tests on patients and using blood already drawn for tests that do not need fresh blood.

"We're spending a lot of money on these tests that [can be] unnecessary]," said Dr. Stephanie Rennke, lead author of an accompanying editorial and an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). "If you put the cost together with the issue of the hazard of patients developing hospital-acquired anemia, that's pretty profound."

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