Be Aggressive! Treating Anemia Associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

A number of recent publications have made the point that anemia is a biomarker for severe inflammatory bowel disease and undertreatment affects quality of life. Reading one of the more recent studies (IE Koutroubakis et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2015; 13: 1760-66) brought to mind the high school football cheer: Be Aggressive!

This particular retrospective study involved 410 patients (245 with Crohn’s disease, 165 with ulcerative colitis) from 2009-2013.  This study is from the same group that published data on a somewhat smaller cohort and showed that IBD treatment alone often will not resolve anemia (Koutroubakis, IE et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2015; 21: 1587-93–see previous blog links).

Key findings:

  • Prevalence of anemia: 37.2% in 2009 and 33.2% in 2013
  • Anemia was associated with increased hospitalizations (P<.01), clinic visits (P<.001), telephone calls (P<.004), surgeries for IBD (P=.001), and lower quality of life scores (P<.03)

The associated editorial (pgs 1767-69) suggests that IBD-related anemia, if mild (w/in 1 g/L below normal) to treat with oral iron replacement and if moderate-to-severe, then to replace intravenously (using Ganzoni’s formula calculator). In addition, if anemia is not improving, looking for alternative explanations (e.g. vitamin B12 or folate deficiency) is recommended.

Ganzoni Equation: Total Iron Deficit = Weight {kg} x (Target Hb – Actual Hb) {g/l} x 2.4 + Iron stores {mg}.   Iron stores: { 500 if W > 35kg } & { 15 mg/kg if W < 35kg }

My take: Anemia is a biomarker for severe disease.  While treating the underlying inflammatory bowel disease, don’t forget to make sure the patient’s anemia is addressed.

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

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