Background: Delta hemoglobin (ΔHb) is defined as the difference between the preoperative Hb and the lowest post-operative Hb level. We sought to define the impact of ΔHb relative to nadir Hb levels on the likelihood of transfusion, as well as characterize the impact of ΔHb and nadir Hb on morbidity among a large cohort of patients undergoing complex hepatopancreatobiliary (HPB) surgery. Methods: Patients who underwent pancreatic or hepatic resection between January 1, 2009 and June 30, 2015 at Johns Hopkins Hospital were identified. Data on the perioperative ΔHb, nadir Hb, as well as blood utilization were obtained and analyzed. Multivariable logistic regression models were used to identify the factors associated with ΔHb and the impact of ΔHb on perioperative morbidity. A Bayesian model was used to evaluate the correlation of ΔHb and nadir Hb with the likelihood of transfusion, as well as the impact on morbidity. Results: A total of 4363 patients who underwent hepatobiliary (n = 2200, 50.4 %) or pancreatic (n = 2163, 49.6 %) surgery were identified. More than one quarter of patients received at least one unit of packed red blood cells (PRBC) (n = 1187, 27.2 %). The median nadir Hb was 9.2 (IQR 7.9–10.5) g/dL resulting in an average ΔHb of 3.4 mg/dL (IQR 2.2–4.7) corresponding to 26.3 %. Both ΔHb and nadir Hb strongly influenced provider behavior with regards to use of transfusion. Among patients with the same nadir Hb, ΔHb was strongly associated with use of transfusion; among patients who had a nadir Hb ≤6 g/dL, the use of transfusion was only 17.9 % when the ΔHb = 10 % versus 49.1 and 80.9 % when the ΔHb was 30 or 50 %, respectively. Perioperative complications occurred in 584 patients (13.4 %) and were more common among patients with a higher value of ΔHb, as well as patients who received PRBC (both P < 0.001). Conclusions: The combination of the Hb trigger with ΔHb was associated with transfusion practices among providers. Larger ΔHb values, as well as receipt of transfusion, were strongly associated with risk of perioperative complication following HPB surgery.
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