Anemia After Stroke Equals Bad News

Severe anemia following a stroke triples the risk of dying

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Following a stroke, suffering from anemia could prove to be a fatal combination. Stroke survivors who suffer from anemia are nearly three times more likely to die the first year after a stroke.

A common condition, anemia is when the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the rest of the body. It can cause fatigue, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath.

"Follow up with your doctor after a stroke."

Dr. Jason Sico, lead researcher and an assistant professor of neurology at Yale University School of Medicine, noted that severe anemia can be a potent predictor of dying during the initial year after a stroke.

Investigators reviewed the medical records of 3,750 men treated for a first ischemic stroke at 131 Veterans Health Administration facilities in 2007. They determined anemia by examining the percentage of red blood cells in the blood, then tracked how many stroke patients died in the hospital at 30 days, 60 days and 12 months later based on their level of anemia.

Patient factors that could alter the results such as age, stroke severity, stroke risk factors and health level prior to the stroke were eliminated to establish the true association between anemia and the risk of dying.

They found that those suffering from severe anemia after a stroke were 3.5 times more likely to die while still hospitalized and 2.5 times more likely to die within one year as compared to stroke survivors without anemia. Individuals who had moderate anemia after a stroke were twice as likely to die six months to one year later. Stroke survivors with mild anemia were 1.5 times more likely to die six months to 12 months later.

Dr. Sico urged that physicians treat known causes of anemia to reduce the risk of death. Severe anemia is usually treated with blood transfusions.

Dr. Sico suggested that stroke survivors with anemia may be at a higher risk of dying because many patients have other conditions such as heart disease. It is also possible that during an ischemic stroke, anemia disables the brain's blood vessels from properly responding to blood pressure changes.

Researchers are currently conducting research to determine which types of anemia are associated with higher risks. They also noted that future research will be needed to determine whether the impact is the same on women.

The study was presented Thursday at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2012 in New Orleans.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 1, 2012
Last Updated:
February 2, 2012