Near Infrared Spectroscopy in Anemia Detection and Management: A Systematic Review

Philip Crispin*, Kathryn Forwood

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    Red cell transfusions are intended to improve oxygen delivery to tissues. Although studies comparing hemoglobin concentration triggers for transfusion have been done, the hemoglobin threshold for clinical benefit remains uncertain. Direct measurement of tissue oxygenation with non-invasive near infrared spectroscopy has been proposed as a more physiological transfusion trigger, but its clinical role remains unclear. This systematic review examined the role of near infrared spectroscopy for detection of anemia and guiding transfusion decisions. Abstracts were identified up until May 2019 through searches of PubMed, EMBASE and The Web of Science. There were 69 studies meeting the inclusion criteria, most (n = 65) of which were observational studies. Tissue oxygen saturation had been measured in a wide range of clinical settings, with neonatal intensive care (n = 26) and trauma (n = 7) being most common. Correlations with hemoglobin concentration and tissue oxygenation were noted and there were correlations between changes in red cell mass and changes in tissue oxygenation through blood loss or transfusion. The value of tissue oxygenation for predicting transfusion was determined in only four studies, all using muscle oxygen saturation in the adult trauma setting. The overall sensitivity was low at 34% (27%-42%) and while it had better specificity at 78% (74%-82%), differing and retrospective approaches create a high level of uncertainty with respect to these conclusions. There were four prospective randomized studies involving 540 patients, in cardiac and neurological surgery and in neonates that compared near infrared spectroscopy to guide transfusion decisions with standard practice. These showed a reduction in the number of red cells transfused per patient (OR: 0.44 [0.09-0.79]), but not the number of patients who received transfusion (OR: 0.71 [0.46-1.10]), and no change in clinical outcomes. Measuring tissue oxygen saturation has potential to help guide transfusion; however, there is a lack of data upon which to recommend widespread implementation into clinical practice. Standardization of measurements is required and greater research into levels at which tissue oxygenation may lead to adverse clinical outcomes would help in the design of future clinical trials.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)22-28
    Number of pages7
    JournalTransfusion Medicine Reviews
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


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