Transfusion in critical care – a UK regional audit of current practice

Plumb, J et. al. Transfusion in critical care – a UK regional audit of current practice Anaesthesia. 2017 May; 72(5) :633-640

Introduction blood-2169514_1920

Critical care publications have advised that a restrictive transfusion strategy is non-inferior, and possibly superior, to a liberal strategy for stable, non-bleeding critically ill patients. However, translation into clinical practice has been slow. These authors describe the degree of adherence to UK best practice guidelines in a regional network of nine intensive care units in Wessex.

Methods and results

All transfusions given during a 2-month period were included (n = 444). Those given for active bleeding or within 24 hours of major surgery, trauma or gastrointestinal bleeding were excluded (n = 148). The median (interquartile range [range]) haemoglobin concentration before transfusion was 73 (68–77 [53–106]) g/L, with only 34% of transfusion episodes using a transfusion threshold of <70 g/L. In a subgroup analysis that did not study patients with a history of cardiac disease (n = 42), haemoglobin concentration before transfusion was 72 (68–77 [50–98]) g/L, with only 36% of transfusion episodes using a threshold of < 70 g/L. Most blood transfusions given to critically ill patients who were not bleeding in this audit used a haemoglobin threshold >70 g/L.


The authors conclude that it is unclear why recommendations on transfusion triggers have not translated into clinical practice. With a clear national drive to decrease usage of blood products and clear evidence that a threshold of 70 g/L is non-inferior, the authors find it surprising that a scarce and potentially dangerous resource is still being overused within critical care. They suggest that simple solutions such as electronic patient records that force pause for thought before blood transfusion, or prescriptions that only allow administration of a single unit in non-emergency circumstances, may help to reduce the incidence of unnecessary blood transfusions.


Patient Blood Management: An International Perspective

Eichbaum, Q. Anesthesia & Analgesia. Published online: November 2 2016

This article describes practices in patient blood management (PBM) in 4 countries on different continents that may provide insights for anesthesiologists and other physicians working in global settings. The article has its foundation in the proceedings of a session at the 2014 AABB annual meeting during which international experts from England, Uganda, China, and Brazil presented the programs and implementation strategies in PBM developed in their respective countries. T

o systematize the review and enhance the comparability between these countries on different continents, authors were requested to respond to the same set of 6 key questions with respect to their country’s PBM program(s).

Considerable variation exists between these country regions that is driven both by differences in health contexts and by disparities in resources. Comparing PBM strategies from low-, middle-, and high-income countries, as described in this article, allows them to learn bidirectionally from one another and to work toward implementing innovative and preferably evidence-based strategies for improvement. Sharing and distributing knowledge from such programs will ultimately also improve transfusion outcomes and patient safety.

Read the abstract here

AAGBI guidelines: the use of blood components and their alternatives 2016
Image source: Wellcome Images // CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Klein, A.A. et al. Anaesthesia. Published online: 8th April 2016.

Image source: Wellcome Images // CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Blood transfusion can be life-saving. Anaesthetists regularly request and administer blood components to their patients. All anaesthetists must be familiar with indications and appropriate use of blood and blood components and their alternatives, but close liaison with haematology specialists and their local blood sciences laboratory is encouraged. Considerable changes in approaches to optimal use of blood components, together with the use of alternative products, have become apparent over the past decade, leading to a need to update previous guidelines and adapt them for the use of anaesthetists working throughout the hospital system.

Read the full guidelines here