Low levels of blood albumin may be an independent risk factor surgery-related complications in people undergoing bladder operations, warn researchers.
The new study data suggests that people with bladder cancer are more than two times more likely to have complications after a radical cystectomy surgical procedure if they have a low levels of blood albumin than those who have adequate levels.
Speaking at the 2013 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons, the research team identified levels of the protein in blood as a potentially modifiable risk factor for surgical complications.
"Poor nutrition is a known risk factor for adverse results after radical cystectomy," explained study leader Dr David Johnson from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill.
"The prevalence of nutritional deficiency is very high in patients with bladder cancer, partly because of their disease and partly because of their advanced age—73 years on average."
While the team confirmed that low levels of albumin led to 2.1 times the risk of post surgical complications in the first 30 days, the they conceded that it is unclear from their study whether preoperative correction of low albumin levels - such as from nutritional supplementation - will translate to fewer problems after surgery.
However, based on the findings, Johnson did recommend that patients with low albumin levels before a scheduled radical cystectomy should see a nutritionist to learn whether they need to make dietary changes before their operations.
"There's very little risk in improving nutritional status before the operation and significant possible benefits," added Angela Smith, MD, co-author of the study.