Systematic review and meta-analysis of outcome-relevant anemia in patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage

Anemia is a common, treatable condition in patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) and has been associated with poor outcome. As there are still no guidelines for anemia management after aneurysm rupture, we aimed to identify outcome-relevant severity of anemia in SAH. We systematically searched PubMed, Embase, Scopus, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library for publications before Oct 23rd, 2022, reporting on anemia in SAH patients. The presence and severity of anemia were assessed according to the reported hemoglobin values and/or institutional thresholds for red blood cells transfusion (RBCT). Out of 1863 original records, 40 full-text articles with a total of 14,701 patients treated between 1996 and 2020 were included in the final analysis (mean 445.48 patients per study). A substantial portion of patients developed anemia during SAH (mean pooled prevalence 40.76%, range 28.3–82.6%). RBCT was administered in a third of the cases (mean 32.07%, range 7.8–88.6%), with institutional threshold varying from 7.00 to 10.00 g/dL (mean 8.5 g/dL). Anemia at the onset of SAH showed no impact on SAH outcome. In contrast, even slight anemia (nadir hemoglobin < 11.0–11.5 g/dL) occurring during SAH was associated with the risk of cerebral infarction and poor outcome at discharge and follow-up. The strongest association with SAH outcome was observed for nadir hemoglobin values ranging between 9.0 and 10.0 g/dL. The effect of anemia on SAH mortality was marginal. The development of anemia during SAH is associated with the risk of cerebral infarction and poor outcome at discharge and follow-up. Outcome-relevant severity of post-SAH anemia begins at hemoglobin levels clearly above the thresholds commonly set for RBCT. Our findings underline the need for further studies to define the optimal management of anemia in SAH patients.


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