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The effect of iron supplementation on the level of haemoglobin after lower limb arthroplasty

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We randomised 120 patients who were undergoing either primary total hip or knee arthroplasty to receive either ferrous sulphate or a placebo for three weeks after surgery. The level of haemoglobin and absolute reticulocyte count were measured at one and five days, and three and six weeks after operation. Ninety-nine patients (ferrous sulphate 50, placebo 49) completed the study. The two groups differed only in the treatment administered.

Recovery of level of haemoglobin was similar at five days and three weeks and returned to 85% of the pre-operative level, irrespective of the treatment group. A small, albeit greater recovery in the level of haemoglobin was identified at six weeks in the ferrous sulphate group in both men (ferrous sulphate 5%, placebo 1.5%) and women (ferrous sulphate 6%, placebo 3%). The clinical significance of this is questionable and may be outweighed by the high incidence of reported side effects of oral iron and the cost of the medication. Administration of iron supplements after elective total hip or total knee arthroplasty does not appear to be worthwhile.

Correspondence should be sent to Mr G. M. Mundy at 1 Balgonie Court, Royal Glen Park, Chellaston, Derby DE73 1YH, UK; e-mail: gmmundy@aol.com

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