Blood Rev. 2021 Mar 26:100830. doi: 10.1016/j.blre.2021.100830. Online ahead of print.
Hospital acquired anemia (HAA) has been a recognized entity for nearly 50 years. Despite multiple hypotheses, a mechanistic understanding is lacking, and targeted interventions have not yet yielded significantly impactful results. Known risk factors include advanced age, multiple co-morbidities, low bone marrow reserve, admission to the intensive care unit, and frequent phlebotomy. However, confounding variables in many studies continues to complicate the identification of additional risk factors. Improved understanding of iron metabolism, erythropoiesis, and the erythroid iron restriction response in the last few decades, as well as the recent demonstration of poor outcomes correlating with increased transfusion have refocused attention on HAA. While retrospective database studies provide ample correlative data between 1) HAA and poor outcomes; 2) reduction of phlebotomy volume and decrease in transfusion requirement; and 3) over-transfusion and increased mortality, no causal link between reduced phlebotomy volume, decreased rates of HAA, and improved mortality or other relevant outcomes have been definitely established. Here, we review the current state of knowledge and provide a summary of potential directions to understand and mitigate HAA. There are at present no clear guidelines on whether and when to evaluate hospitalized patients for underlying causes of anemia. We thus provide a guide for clinicians in general practice toward identifying patients at the highest risk for HAA, decreasing blood loss through phlebotomy to the greatest degree feasible, and evaluating and treating reversible causes of anemia in a targeted population.