Transfusion thresholds for guiding red blood cell transfusion
The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 2021;12:Cd002042
BACKGROUND The optimal haemoglobin threshold for use of red blood cell (RBC) transfusions in anaemic patients remains an active field of research. Blood is a scarce resource, and in some countries, transfusions are less safe than in others because of inadequate testing for viral pathogens. If a liberal transfusion policy does not improve clinical outcomes, or if it is equivalent, then adopting a more restrictive approach could be recognised as the standard of care. OBJECTIVES The aim of this review update was to compare 30-day mortality and other clinical outcomes for participants randomised to restrictive versus liberal red blood cell (RBC) transfusion thresholds (triggers) for all clinical conditions. The restrictive transfusion threshold uses a lower haemoglobin concentration as a threshold for transfusion (most commonly, 7.0 g/dL to 8.0 g/dL), and the liberal transfusion threshold uses a higher haemoglobin concentration as a threshold for transfusion (most commonly, 9.0 g/dL to 10.0 g/dL). SEARCH METHODS We identified trials through updated searches: CENTRAL (2020, Issue 11), MEDLINE (1946 to November 2020), Embase (1974 to November 2020), Transfusion Evidence Library (1950 to November 2020), Web of Science Conference Proceedings Citation Index (1990 to November 2020), and trial registries (November 2020). We checked the reference lists of other published reviews and relevant papers to identify additional trials. We were aware of one trial identified in earlier searching that was in the process of being published (in February 2021), and we were able to include it before this review was finalised. SELECTION CRITERIA We included randomised trials of surgical or medical participants that recruited adults or children, or both. We excluded studies that focused on neonates. Eligible trials assigned intervention groups on the basis of different transfusion schedules or thresholds or 'triggers'. These thresholds would be defined by a haemoglobin (Hb) or haematocrit (Hct) concentration below which an RBC transfusion would be administered; the haemoglobin concentration remains the most commonly applied marker of the need for RBC transfusion in clinical practice. We included trials in which investigators had allocated participants to higher thresholds or more liberal transfusion strategies compared to more restrictive ones, which might include no transfusion. As in previous versions of this review, we did not exclude unregistered trials published after 2010 (as per the policy of the Cochrane Injuries Group, 2015), however, we did conduct analyses to consider the differential impact of results of trials for which prospective registration could not be confirmed. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS We identified trials for inclusion and extracted data using Cochrane methods. We pooled risk ratios of clinical outcomes across trials using a random-effects model. Two review authors independently extracted data and assessed risk of bias. We conducted predefined analyses by clinical subgroups. We defined participants randomly allocated to the lower transfusion threshold as being in the 'restrictive transfusion' group and those randomly allocated to the higher transfusion threshold as being in the 'liberal transfusion' group. MAIN RESULTS A total of 48 trials, involving data from 21,433 participants (at baseline), across a range of clinical contexts (e.g. orthopaedic, cardiac, or vascular surgery; critical care; acute blood loss (including gastrointestinal bleeding); acute coronary syndrome; cancer; leukaemia; haematological malignancies), met the eligibility criteria. The haemoglobin concentration used to define the restrictive transfusion group in most trials (36) was between 7.0 g/dL and 8.0 g/dL. Most trials included only adults; three trials focused on children. The included studies were generally at low risk of bias for key domains including allocation concealment and incomplete outcome data. Restrictive transfusion strategies reduced the risk of receiving at least one RBC transfusion by 41% across a broad range of clinical contexts (risk ratio (RR) 0.59, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.53 to 0.66; 42 studies, 20,057 participants; high-quality evidence), with a large amount of heterogeneity between trials (I² = 96%). Overall, restrictive transfusion strategies did not increase or decrease the risk of 30-day mortality compared with liberal transfusion strategies (RR 0.99, 95% CI 0.86 to 1.15; 31 studies, 16,729 participants; I² = 30%; moderate-quality evidence) or any of the other outcomes assessed (i.e. cardiac events (low-quality evidence), myocardial infarction, stroke, thromboembolism (all high-quality evidence)). High-quality evidence shows that the liberal transfusion threshold did not affect the risk of infection (pneumonia, wound infection, or bacteraemia). Transfusion-specific reactions are uncommon and were inconsistently reported within trials. We noted less certainty in the strength of evidence to support the safety of restrictive transfusion thresholds for the following predefined clinical subgroups: myocardial infarction, vascular surgery, haematological malignancies, and chronic bone-marrow disorders. AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS Transfusion at a restrictive haemoglobin concentration decreased the proportion of people exposed to RBC transfusion by 41% across a broad range of clinical contexts. Across all trials, no evidence suggests that a restrictive transfusion strategy impacted 30-day mortality, mortality at other time points, or morbidity (i.e. cardiac events, myocardial infarction, stroke, pneumonia, thromboembolism, infection) compared with a liberal transfusion strategy. Despite including 17 more randomised trials (and 8846 participants), data remain insufficient to inform the safety of transfusion policies in important and selected clinical contexts, such as myocardial infarction, chronic cardiovascular disease, neurological injury or traumatic brain injury, stroke, thrombocytopenia, and cancer or haematological malignancies, including chronic bone marrow failure. Further work is needed to improve our understanding of outcomes other than mortality. Most trials compared only two separate thresholds for haemoglobin concentration, which may not identify the actual optimal threshold for transfusion in a particular patient. Haemoglobin concentration may not be the most informative marker of the need for transfusion in individual patients with different degrees of physiological adaptation to anaemia. Notwithstanding these issues, overall findings provide good evidence that transfusions with allogeneic RBCs can be avoided in most patients with haemoglobin thresholds between the range of 7.0 g/dL and 8.0 g/dL. Some patient subgroups might benefit from RBCs to maintain higher haemoglobin concentrations; research efforts should focus on these clinical contexts.
Patients (adults and children) across a range of clinical contexts including surgery (48 studies, n= 21,433).
Restrictive red blood cell (RBC) transfusion threshold strategy.
Liberal RBC transfusion threshold strategy.
Restrictive transfusion strategies reduced the risk of receiving at least one RBC transfusion by 41% across a broad range of clinical contexts. Overall, restrictive transfusion strategies did not increase or decrease the risk of 30-day mortality compared with liberal transfusion strategies or any of the other outcomes assessed (cardiac events, myocardial infarction, stroke, thromboembolism). High-quality evidence showed that the liberal transfusion threshold did not affect the risk of infection (pneumonia, wound infection, or bacteraemia). Transfusion-specific reactions were uncommon and were inconsistently reported within trials.
Plasma trial: Pilot randomized clinical trial to determine safety and efficacy of plasma transfusions
BACKGROUND Plasma is frequently administered to patients with prolonged INR prior to invasive procedures. However, there is limited evidence evaluating efficacy and safety. STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS We performed a pilot trial in hospitalized patients with INR between 1.5 and 2.5 undergoing procedures conducted outside the operating room. We excluded patients undergoing procedures proximal to the central nervous system, platelet counts <40,000/μl, or congenital or acquired coagulation disorders unresponsive to plasma. We randomly allocated patients stratified by hospital and history of cirrhosis to receive plasma transfusion (10-15 cc/kg) or no transfusion. The primary outcome was change in hemoglobin concentration within 2 days of procedure. RESULTS We enrolled 57 patients, mean age 56.0, 34 (59.6%) with cirrhosis, and mean INR 1.92 (SD = 0.27). In the intention to treat analysis, there were 10 of 27 (38.5%) participants in the plasma arm with a post procedure INR <1.5 and one of 30 (3.6%) in the no treatment arm (p < .01). The mean INR after receiving plasma transfusion was -0.24 (SD 0.26) lower than baseline. The change from pre-procedure hemoglobin level to lowest level within 2 days was -0.6 (SD = 1.0) in the plasma transfusion arm and -0.4 (SD = 0.6) in the no transfusion arm (p = .29). Adverse outcomes were uncommon. DISCUSSION We found no differences in change in hemoglobin concentration in those treated with plasma compared to no treatment. The change in INR was small and corrected to less than 1.5 in minority of patients. Large trials are required to establish if plasma is safe and efficacious.
Patients with cirrhosis (n= 57).
Plasma transfusion (n= 27).
No transfusion (n= 30).
In the intention to treat analysis, there were 10 of 27 (38.5%) participants in the plasma arm with a post procedure INR <1.5 and one of 30 (3.6%) in the no treatment arm. The mean INR after receiving plasma transfusion was -0.24 (SD 0.26) lower than baseline. The change from pre-procedure haemoglobin level to lowest level within 2 days was -0.6 (SD = 1.0) in the plasma transfusion arm and -0.4 (SD = 0.6) in the no transfusion arm. Adverse outcomes were uncommon.
Patient Blood Management: Recommendations From the 2018 Frankfurt Consensus Conference
Importance: Blood transfusion is one of the most frequently used therapies worldwide and is associated with benefits, risks, and costs. Objective: To develop a set of evidence-based recommendations for patient blood management (PBM) and for research. Evidence Review: The scientific committee developed 17 Population/Intervention/Comparison/Outcome (PICO) questions for red blood cell (RBC) transfusion in adult patients in 3 areas: preoperative anemia (3 questions), RBC transfusion thresholds (11 questions), and implementation of PBM programs (3 questions). These questions guided the literature search in 4 biomedical databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, Transfusion Evidence Library), searched from inception to January 2018. Meta-analyses were conducted with the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation) methodology and the Evidence-to-Decision framework by 3 panels including clinical and scientific experts, nurses, patient representatives, and methodologists, to develop clinical recommendations during a consensus conference in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, in April 2018. Findings: From 17607 literature citations associated with the 17 PICO questions, 145 studies, including 63 randomized clinical trials with 23143 patients and 82 observational studies with more than 4 million patients, were analyzed. For preoperative anemia, 4 clinical and 3 research recommendations were developed, including the strong recommendation to detect and manage anemia sufficiently early before major elective surgery. For RBC transfusion thresholds, 4 clinical and 6 research recommendations were developed, including 2 strong clinical recommendations for critically ill but clinically stable intensive care patients with or without septic shock (recommended threshold for RBC transfusion, hemoglobin concentration <7 g/dL) as well as for patients undergoing cardiac surgery (recommended threshold for RBC transfusion, hemoglobin concentration <7.5 g/dL). For implementation of PBM programs, 2 clinical and 3 research recommendations were developed, including recommendations to implement comprehensive PBM programs and to use electronic decision support systems (both conditional recommendations) to improve appropriate RBC utilization. Conclusions and Relevance: The 2018 PBM International Consensus Conference defined the current status of the PBM evidence base for practice and research purposes and established 10 clinical recommendations and 12 research recommendations for preoperative anemia, RBC transfusion thresholds for adults, and implementation of PBM programs. The relative paucity of strong evidence to answer many of the PICO questions supports the need for additional research and an international consensus for accepted definitions and hemoglobin thresholds, as well as clinically meaningful end points for multicenter trials.
Transfusion thresholds and other strategies for guiding allogeneic red blood cell transfusion
The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2016;((10)):CD002042.
BACKGROUND There is considerable uncertainty regarding the optimal haemoglobin threshold for the use of red blood cell (RBC) transfusions in anaemic patients. Blood is a scarce resource, and in some countries, transfusions are less safe than others because of a lack of testing for viral pathogens. Therefore, reducing the number and volume of transfusions would benefit patients. OBJECTIVES The aim of this review was to compare 30-day mortality and other clinical outcomes in participants randomized to restrictive versus liberal red blood cell (RBC) transfusion thresholds (triggers) for all conditions. The restrictive transfusion threshold uses a lower haemoglobin level to trigger transfusion (most commonly 7 g/dL or 8 g/dL), and the liberal transfusion threshold uses a higher haemoglobin level to trigger transfusion (most commonly 9 g/dL to 10 g/dL). SEARCH METHODS We identified trials by searching CENTRAL (2016, Issue 4), MEDLINE (1946 to May 2016), Embase (1974 to May 2016), the Transfusion Evidence Library (1950 to May 2016), the Web of Science Conference Proceedings Citation Index (1990 to May 2016), and ongoing trial registries (27 May 2016). We also checked reference lists of other published reviews and relevant papers to identify any additional trials. SELECTION CRITERIA We included randomized trials where intervention groups were assigned on the basis of a clear transfusion 'trigger', described as a haemoglobin (Hb) or haematocrit (Hct) level below which a red blood cell (RBC) transfusion was to be administered. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS We pooled risk ratios of clinical outcomes across trials using a random-effects model. Two people extracted the data and assessed the risk of bias. We conducted predefined analyses by clinical subgroups. We defined participants randomly allocated to the lower transfusion threshold as 'restrictive transfusion' and to the higher transfusion threshold as 'liberal transfusion'. MAIN RESULTS A total of 31 trials, involving 12,587 participants, across a range of clinical specialities (e.g. surgery, critical care) met the eligibility criteria. The trial interventions were split fairly equally with regard to the haemoglobin concentration used to define the restrictive transfusion group. About half of them used a 7 g/dL threshold, and the other half used a restrictive transfusion threshold of 8 g/dL to 9 g/dL. The trials were generally at low risk of bias .Some items of methodological quality were unclear, including definitions and blinding for secondary outcomes.Restrictive transfusion strategies reduced the risk of receiving a RBC transfusion by 43% across a broad range of clinical specialties (risk ratio (RR) 0.57, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.49 to 0.65; 12,587 participants, 31 trials; high-quality evidence), with a large amount of heterogeneity between trials (I(2) = 97%). Overall, restrictive transfusion strategies did not increase or decrease the risk of 30-day mortality compared with liberal transfusion strategies (RR 0.97, 95% CI 0.81 to 1.16, I(2) = 37%; N = 10,537; 23 trials; moderate-quality evidence) or any of the other outcomes assessed (i.e. cardiac events (low-quality evidence), myocardial infarction, stroke, thromboembolism (high-quality evidence)). Liberal transfusion did not affect the risk of infection (pneumonia, wound, or bacteraemia). AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS Transfusing at a restrictive haemoglobin concentration of between 7 g/dL to 8 g/dL decreased the proportion of participants exposed to RBC transfusion by 43% across a broad range of clinical specialities. There was no evidence that a restrictive transfusion strategy impacts 30-day mortality or morbidity (i.e. mortality at other points, cardiac events, myocardial infarction, stroke, pneumonia, thromboembolism, infection) compared with a liberal transfusion strategy. There were insufficient data to inform the safety of transfusion policies in certain clinical subgroups, including acute coronary syndrome, myocardial infarction, neurological injury/traumatic brain injury, acute neurological disord
Effects of red-cell storage duration on patients undergoing cardiac surgery
New England Journal of Medicine. 2015;372((15):):1419-29.
BACKGROUND Some observational studies have reported that transfusion of red-cell units that have been stored for more than 2 to 3 weeks is associated with serious, even fatal, adverse events. Patients undergoing cardiac surgery may be especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of transfusion.METHODS We conducted a randomized trial at multiple sites from 2010 to 2014. Participants 12 years of age or older who were undergoing complex cardiac surgery and were likely to undergo transfusion of red cells were randomly assigned to receive leukocyte-reduced red cells stored for 10 days or less (shorter-term storage group) or for 21 days or more (longer-term storage group) for all intraoperative and postoperative transfusions. The primary outcome was the change in Multiple Organ Dysfunction Score (MODS; range, 0 to 24, with higher scores indicating more severe organ dysfunction) from the preoperative score to the highest composite score through day 7 or the time of death or discharge.RESULTS The median storage time of red-cell units provided to the 1098 participants who received red-cell transfusion was 7 days in the shorter-term storage group and 28 days in the longer-term storage group. The mean change in MODS was an increase of 8.5 and 8.7 points, respectively (95% confidence interval for the difference, -0.6 to 0.3; P=0.44). The 7-day mortality was 2.8% in the shorter-term storage group and 2.0% in the longer-term storage group (P=0.43); 28-day mortality was 4.4% and 5.3%, respectively (P=0.57). Adverse events did not differ significantly between groups except that hyperbilirubinemia was more common in the longer-term storage group.CONCLUSIONS The duration of red-cell storage was not associated with significant differences in the change in MODS. We did not find that the transfusion of red cells stored for 10 days or less was superior to the transfusion of red cells stored for 21 days or more among patients 12 years of age or older who were undergoing complex cardiac surgery. (Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; RECESS ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00991341.).
Liberal versus restrictive blood transfusion strategy: 3-year survival and cause of death results from the FOCUS randomised controlled trial
BACKGROUND Blood transfusion might affect long-term mortality by changing immune function and thus potentially increasing the risk of subsequent infections and cancer recurrence. Compared with a restrictive transfusion strategy, a more liberal strategy could reduce cardiac complications by lowering myocardial damage, thereby reducing future deaths from cardiovascular disease. We aimed to establish the effect of a liberal transfusion strategy on long-term survival compared with a restrictive transfusion strategy. METHODS In the randomised controlled FOCUS trial, adult patients aged 50 years and older, with a history of or risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and with postoperative haemoglobin concentrations lower than 100 g/L within 3 days of surgery to repair a hip fracture, were eligible for enrolment. Patients were recruited from 47 participating hospitals in the USA and Canada, and eligible participants were randomly allocated in a 1:1 ratio by a central telephone system to either liberal transfusion in which they received blood transfusion to maintain haemoglobin level at 100 g/L or higher, or restrictive transfusion in which they received blood transfusion when haemoglobin level was lower than 80 g/L or if they had symptoms of anaemia. In this study, we analysed the long-term mortality of patients assigned to the two transfusion strategies, which was a secondary outcome of the FOCUS trial. Long-term mortality was established by linking the study participants to national death registries in the USA and Canada. Treatment assignment was not masked, but investigators who ascertained mortality and cause of death were masked to group assignment. Analyses were by intention to treat. The FOCUS trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00071032. FINDINGS Between July 19, 2004, and Feb 28, 2009, 2016 patients were enrolled and randomly assigned to the two treatment groups: 1007 to the liberal transfusion strategy and 1009 to the restrictive transfusion strategy. The median duration of follow-up was 31 years (IQR 24-41 years), during which 841 (42%) patients died. Long-term mortality did not differ significantly between the liberal transfusion strategy (432 deaths) and the restrictive transfusion strategy (409 deaths) (hazard ratio 109 [95% CI 095-125]; p=021). INTERPRETATION Liberal blood transfusion did not affect mortality compared with a restrictive transfusion strategy in a high-risk group of elderly patients with underlying cardiovascular disease or risk factors. The underlying causes of death did not differ between the trial groups. These findings do not support hypotheses that blood transfusion leads to long-term immunosuppression that is severe enough to affect long-term mortality rate by more than 20-25% or cause of death. FUNDING National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
A randomized clinical trial of liberal versus restrictive transfusion strategy evaluating long term survival and cause of death: results from the FOCUS trial
Blood. 2014;124((21)): Abstract No. 757
Delirium outcomes in a randomized trial of blood transfusion thresholds in hospitalized older adults with hip fracture
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2013;61((8):):1286-95.
OBJECTIVES To determine whether a higher blood transfusion threshold would prevent new or worsening delirium symptoms in the hospital after hip fracture surgery. DESIGN Ancillary study to a randomized clinical trial. SETTING Thirteen hospitals in the United States and Canada. PARTICIPANTS One hundred thirty-nine individuals hospitalized with hip fracture aged 50 and older (mean age 81.5+/-9.1) with cardiovascular disease or risk factors and hemoglobin concentrations of less than 10g/dL within 3days of surgery recruited in an ancillary study of the Transfusion Trigger Trial for Functional Outcomes in Cardiovascular Patients Undergoing Surgical Hip Fracture Repair. INTERVENTION Individuals in the liberal treatment group received one unit of packed red blood cells and as much blood as needed to maintain hemoglobin concentrations at greater than 10g/dL; those in the restrictive treatment group received transfusions if they developed symptoms of anemia or their hemoglobin fell below 8g/dL. MEASUREMENTS Delirium assessments were performed before randomization and up to three times after randomization. The primary outcome was severity of delirium according to the Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale (MDAS). The secondary outcome was the presence or absence of delirium defined according to the Confusion Assessment Method (CAM). RESULTS The liberal group received a median two units of blood and the restrictive group zero units of blood. Hemoglobin concentration on Day 1 after randomization was 1.4g/dL higher in the liberal group. Treatment groups did not differ significantly at any time point or over time on MDAS delirium severity (P=.28) or CAM delirium presence (P=.83). CONCLUSION Blood transfusion to maintain hemoglobin concentrations greater than 10g/dL alone is unlikely to influence delirium severity or rate in individuals with hip fracture after surgery with a hemoglobin concentration less than 10g/dL. 2013, Copyright the Authors Journal compilation 2013, The American Geriatrics Society.
Liberal versus restrictive transfusion thresholds for patients with symptomatic coronary artery disease
American Heart Journal. 2013;165((6):):964-971.e1.
BACKGROUND Prior trials suggest it is safe to defer transfusion at hemoglobin levels above 7 to 8 g/dL in most patients. Patients with acute coronary syndrome may benefit from higher hemoglobin levels. METHODS We performed a pilot trial in 110 patients with acute coronary syndrome or stable angina undergoing cardiac catheterization and a hemoglobin <10 g/dL. Patients in the liberal transfusion strategy received one or more units of blood to raise the hemoglobin level >=10 g/dL. Patients in the restrictive transfusion strategy were permitted to receive blood for symptoms from anemia or for a hemoglobin <8 g/dL. The predefined primary outcome was the composite of death, myocardial infarction, or unscheduled revascularization 30 days post randomization. RESULTS Baseline characteristics were similar between groups except age (liberal, 67.3; restrictive, 74.3). The mean number of units transfused was 1.6 in the liberal group and 0.6 in the restrictive group. The primary outcome occurred in 6 patients (10.9%) in the liberal group and 14 (25.5%) in the restrictive group (risk difference = 15.0%; 95% confidence interval of difference 0.7% to 29.3%; P = .054 and adjusted for age P = .076). Death at 30 days was less frequent in liberal group (n = 1, 1.8%) compared to restrictive group (n = 7, 13.0%; P = .032). CONCLUSIONS The liberal transfusion strategy was associated with a trend for fewer major cardiac events and deaths than a more restrictive strategy. These results support the feasibility of and the need for a definitive trial. Copyright 2013 Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.
Red blood cell transfusion: a clinical practice guideline from the AABB
Annals of Internal Medicine. 2012;157((1):):49-58.
Description: Although approximately 85 million units of red blood cells (RBCs) are transfused annually worldwide, transfusion practices vary widely. The AABB (formerly, the American Association of Blood Banks) developed this guideline to provide clinical recommendations about hemoglobin concentration thresholds and other clinical variables that trigger RBC transfusions in hemodynamically stable adults and children. Methods: These guidelines are based on a systematic review of randomized clinical trials evaluating transfusion thresholds. We performed a literature search from 1950 to February 2011 with no language restrictions. We examined the proportion of patients who received any RBC transfusion and the number of RBC units transfused to describe the effect of restrictive transfusion strategies on RBC use. To determine the clinical consequences of restrictive transfusion strategies, we examined overall mortality, nonfatal myocardial infarction, cardiac events, pulmonary edema, stroke, thromboembolism, renal failure, infection, hemorrhage, mental confusion, functional recovery, and length of hospital stay. Recommendation 1: The AABB recommends adhering to a restrictive transfusion strategy (7 to 8 g/dL) in hospitalized, stable patients (Grade: strong recommendation; high-quality evidence). Recommendation 2: The AABB suggests adhering to a restrictive strategy in hospitalized patients with preexisting cardiovascular disease and considering transfusion for patients with symptoms or a hemoglobin level of 8 g/dL or less (Grade: weak recommendation; moderate-quality evidence). Recommendation 3: The AABB cannot recommend for or against a liberal or restrictive transfusion threshold for hospitalized, hemodynamically stable patients with the acute coronary syndrome (Grade: uncertain recommendation; very low-quality evidence). Recommendation 4: The AABB suggests that transfusion decisions be influenced by symptoms as well as hemoglobin concentration (Grade: weak recommendation; low-quality evidence). 2012 American College of Physicians.