Free Hemoglobin Ratio as a Novel Biomarker of Acute Kidney Injury After On-Pump Cardiac Surgery: Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial

Anesth Analg. 2021 Jan 21. Online ahead of print


Cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) is associated with a high risk of postoperative acute kidney injury (AKI). Due to limitations of current diagnostic strategies, we sought to determine whether free hemoglobin (fHb) ratio (ie, levels of fHb at the end of CPB divided by baseline fHb) could predict AKI after on-pump cardiac surgery.


This is a secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial comparing the effect of nitric oxide (intervention) versus nitrogen (control) on AKI after cardiac surgery (NCT01802619). A total of 110 adult patients in the control arm were included. First, we determined whether fHb ratio was associated with AKI via multivariable analysis. Second, we verified whether fHb ratio could predict AKI and incorporation of fHb ratio could improve predictive performance at an early stage, compared with prediction using urinary biomarkers alone. We conducted restricted cubic spline in logistic regression for model development. We determined the predictive performance, including area under the receiver-operating-characteristics curve (AUC) and calibration (calibration plot and accuracy, ie, number of correct predictions divided by total number of predictions). We also used AUC test, likelihood ratio test, and net reclassification index (NRI) to compare the predictive performance between competing models (ie, fHb ratio versus neutrophil gelatinase–associated lipocalin [NGAL], N-acetyl-β-d-glucosaminidase [NAG], and kidney injury molecule-1 [KIM-1], respectively, and incorporation of fHb ratio with NGAL, NAG, and KIM-1 versus urinary biomarkers alone), if applicable.


Data stratified by median fHb ratio showed that subjects with an fHb ratio >2.23 presented higher incidence of AKI (80.0% vs 49.1%; P = .001), more need of renal replacement therapy (10.9% vs 0%; P = .036), and higher in-hospital mortality (10.9% vs 0%; P = .036) than subjects with an fHb ratio ≤2.23. fHb ratio was associated with AKI after adjustment for preestablished factors. fHb ratio outperformed urinary biomarkers with the highest AUC of 0.704 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.592-0.804) and accuracy of 0.714 (95% CI, 0.579-0.804). Incorporation of fHb ratio achieved better discrimination (AUC test, P = .012), calibration (likelihood ratio test, P < .001; accuracy, 0.740 [95% CI, 0.617-0.832] vs 0.632 [95% CI, 0.477-0.748]), and significant prediction increment (NRI, 0.638; 95% CI, 0.269-1.008; P < .001) at an early stage, compared with prediction using urinary biomarkers alone.


Results from this exploratory, hypothesis-generating retrospective, observational study shows that fHb ratio at the end of CPB might be used as a novel, widely applicable biomarker for AKI. The use of fHb ratio might help for an early detection of AKI, compared with prediction based only on urinary biomarkers.


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