Abstract Background: Transfusion is not an exceptional circumstance in palliative cancer patients (PCPs). This makes it necessary to confront not only medical aspects but also those of infrastructure and ethical issues. On some occasions, literature needs to be consulted to work out the best approach in a patient's particular case. Our aim was to review the literature contained in PubMed
and EMBASE so as to find out about the information available on transfusion in PCPs. Methods: A search for literature was carried out in databases PubMed and EMBASE, using "transfusion," "cancer," "end-of-life care," "terminal care," and "palliative care" as key words. Publications were classified according to the main topic discussed (clinical, infrastructure, and ethics) and the information included in each article critically assessed. Results: We found 334 articles but only 43 were considered valuable for the present study. Of these 43 articles, 21 deal with clinical topics while 12 deal with infrastructure and 10 with ethical issues. There is an absolute lack of randomized controlled trials or clinical guidelines. Trigger parameters for transfusion are not clearly established. Benefits of the procedure are shortly experienced and remain controversial. Home transfusions are encouraged, but this sole procedure has not been demonstrated to be cost effective. Different cultures, cases, and realities illustrate the diversity of the ethical management of transfusion in PCPs. Discussion: Although transfusion is certainly a common practice in PCPs, there is a relative lack of literature on this topic. Publications are unconnected and hardly any prospective studies have been performed. A large part of the little literature available only concerns descriptive and very general aspects of the issue. As transfusional products and financial and human resources are finite, it would be desirable to establish clear research lines on the different aspects considered (clinical, infrastructure, and ethical) that can help clinicians, nurses, patients, and carers to make a decision.