Red Cell distribution width and mortality in older adults: A meta-analysis

Kushang V. Patel, Richard D. Semba, Luigi Ferrucci, Anne B. Newman, Linda P. Fried, Robert B. Wallace, Stefania Bandinelli, Caroline S. Phillips, Binbing Yu, Stephanie Connelly, Michael G. Shlipak, Paulo H.M. Chaves, Lenore J. Launer, William B. Ershler, Tamara B. Harris, Dan L. Longo, Jack M. Guralnik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

294 Scopus citations


BackgroundRed cell distribution width (RDW) is a quantitative measure of variability in the size of circulating erythrocytes with higher values reflecting greater heterogeneity in cell sizes. Recent studies have shown that higher RDW is associated with increased mortality risk in patients with clinically significant cardiovascular disease (CVD). Whether RDW is prognostic in more representative community-based populations is unclear.MethodsSeven relevant community-based studies of older adults with RDW measurement and mortality ascertainment were identified. Cox proportional hazards regression and meta-analysis on individual participant data were performed.ResultsMedian RDW values varied across studies from 13.2% to 14.6%. During 68,822 person-years of follow-up of 11,827 older adults with RDW measured, there was a graded increased risk of death associated with higher RDW values (p <. 001). For every 1% increment in RDW, total mortality risk increased by 14% (adjusted hazard ratio [HR]: 1.14; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.11-1.17). In addition, RDW was strongly associated with deaths from CVD (adjusted HR: 1.15; 95% CI: 1.12-1.25), cancer (adjusted HR: 1.13; 95% CI: 1.07-1.20), and other causes (adjusted HR: 1.13; 95% CI: 1.07-1.18). Furthermore, the RDW-mortality association occurred in all major demographic, disease, and nutritional risk factor subgroups examined. Among the subset of 1,603 older adults without major age-associated diseases, RDW remained strongly associated with total mortality (adjusted HR: 1.32; 95% CI: 1.21-1.44).ConclusionsRDW is a routinely reported test that is a powerful predictor of mortality in community-dwelling older adults with and without age-associated diseases. The biologic mechanisms underlying this association merit investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)258-265
Number of pages8
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Volume65 A
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Aging
  • Erythrocyte Indices
  • Mortality
  • Risk Factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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