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BACKGROUND: Pre-operative anaemia has been associated independently with worse outcomes after cardiac surgery in adults and is often caused by absolute or functional iron deficiency. Iron deficiency is a continuum ending with anaemia, and therefore it is plausible that pre-operative early or 'non-anaemic' iron deficiency may also be associated with worse outcomes in patients undergoing cardiac surgery. METHODS: We have designed a prospective, observational study to determine if there is an association between non-anaemic iron deficiency and worse outcomes after cardiac surgery in adults. Patients without anaemia undergoing elective cardiac surgery will be allocated to an iron-deficient and an iron-replete group based on standard pre-operative blood tests (ferritin, transferrin saturation and C-reactive protein). The primary outcome is days alive and at home on postoperative day 30. The key secondary outcomes are days alive and at home on postoperative day 90 and readmission to acute care. Other secondary outcomes include health-related quality of life questionnaires, quality of postoperative recovery, postoperative complications, changes in haemoglobin concentration, and requirement for allogeneic blood products. The planned study sample size is 240 patients per group, which has 83% power to detect a median difference of 1.25 days in the primary outcome. The study commenced in March 2018, and recently completed recruitment, with data audit and cleaning ongoing. DISCUSSION: This study will be conducted using a rigorous, prospective observational design; it will provide peak bodies and clinicians with high-quality evidence concerning the associations between non-anaemic iron deficiency and patient-centred outcomes after elective cardiac surgery. Our primary and key secondary outcomes are known to have great importance to clinicians and patients alike and align with the recommendations of the StEP-COMPAC group for outcomes in prospective peri-operative research. The definition used for iron deficiency accounts for both absolute and functional iron deficiency and make use of standard pre-operative blood tests to make this determination, easing the transition of results into clinical practice. The study will be conducted in two relatively high-volume centres in a single high-income country. This limits the generalisability of study results to similar centres. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ( ACTRN12618000185268 ). Registered 5 February 2018.
Miles, L. F., Soo, V. P., Braat, S., Heritier, S., Burbury, K. L., & Story, D. A. (2022). A protocol for prospective observational study to determine if non-anaemic iron deficiency worsens postoperative outcome in adult patients undergoing elective cardiac surgery: the IDOCS study. Perioperative Medicine, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13741-022-00239-2
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