The Prevalence and Clinical Significance of Preoperative Thrombocytopenia in Adults Undergoing Elective Surgery: An Observational Cohort Study

Luke J Matzek, Andrew C Hanson, Phillip J Schulte, Kimberly D Evans, Daryl J Kor, Matthew A Warner
Anesthesia and Analgesia 2021 January 11

BACKGROUND: Preoperative thrombocytopenia is associated with inferior outcomes in surgical patients, though concurrent anemia may obfuscate these relationships. This investigation assesses the prevalence and clinical significance of preoperative thrombocytopenia with thorough consideration of preoperative anemia status.

METHODS: This is an observational cohort study of adults undergoing elective surgery with planned postoperative hospitalization from January 1, 2009 to May 3, 2018. Patients were designated into 4 groups: normal platelet and hemoglobin concentrations, isolated thrombocytopenia (ie, platelet count <100 × 109/L), isolated anemia (ie, hemoglobin <12 g/dL women, <13.5 g/dL men), and thrombocytopenia with anemia. Thrombocytopenia was further defined as incidental (ie, previously undiagnosed) or nonincidental. Multivariable regression analyses were utilized to assess the relationships between thrombocytopenia status and clinical outcomes, with a primary outcome of hospital length of stay.

RESULTS: A total of 120,348 patients were included for analysis: 72.3% (95% confidence interval [CI], 72.1-72.6) normal preoperative laboratory values, 26.3% (26.1-26.6) isolated anemia, 0.80% (0.75-0.86) thrombocytopenia with anemia, and 0.52% (0.48-0.56) isolated thrombocytopenia (0.38% [0.34-0.41] nonincidental, 0.14% [0.12-0.17] incidental). Thrombocytopenia was associated with longer hospital length of stay in those with concurrent anemia (multiplicative increase of the geometric mean 1.05 [1.00, 1.09] days; P = .034) but not in those with normal preoperative hemoglobin concentrations (multiplicative increase of the geometric mean 1.02 [0.96, 1.07] days; P = .559). Thrombocytopenia was associated with increased odds for intraoperative transfusion regardless of anemia status (nonanemic: 3.39 [2.79, 4.12]; P < .001 vs anemic: 2.60 [2.24, 3.01]; P < .001). Thrombocytopenia was associated with increased rates of intensive care unit (ICU) admission in nonanemic patients (1.56 [1.18, 2.05]; P = .002) but not in those with preoperative anemia (0.93 [0.73, 1.19]; P = .578).

CONCLUSIONS: Preoperative thrombocytopenia is associated with clinical outcomes in elective surgery, both in the presence and absence of concurrent anemia. However, isolated thrombocytopenia is rare (0.5%) and is usually identified before preoperative testing. It is unlikely that routine thrombocytopenia screening is indicated for most patients.

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