Face masks and polycythemia is the standard hemoglobin cutoff valid in the pandemic?


BACKGROUND: Polycythemia is a common reason for patients’ admissions. With the introductionof COVID‑19, face masks reached very common usage in the population. Masks may cause somedegree of hypoxia that may result in high hemoglobin in healthy individuals. Here, we aimed toinvestigate the frequency of patients applying for high hemoglobin and tested for possible polycythemiavera (PV) in the pandemic era.MATERIALS AND METHODS: We collected patients who applied to the hematology outpatient clinicbetween March 2019 and April 2021 for the study. The research was carried out at a single centerat Ankara Oncology Training and Research Hospital. We collected demographic data such as ageand sex, laboratory parameters such as complete blood count and erythropoietin level, concomitantdiseases, smoking history, and spleen size.RESULTS: The median age of the cohort was 41 (16–83). Groups were different regardingage (P = 0.04). Groups were similar regarding gender (P = 0.350). Comorbidities were similar inboth groups. Smoking was more frequent in the pre‑COVID era group (P = 0.046). The frequencyof the Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) test order was 102 examinations out of 7920 for the pre‑COVID eraand 152 examinations out of 6087 for the COVID era; this was statistically significant (P < 0.001).CONCLUSION: Clinicians may need to re‑evaluate the threshold of hemoglobin levels to order JAK2tests in the pandemic era, and the significance of mildly elevated hemoglobin may be neglectedwhile testing for potential PV