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Less blood needed post-surgery, says NEJM study
Date:12/15/2011

of physicians follow a "restrictive" approach using a lower threshold or symptoms of anemia. In addition, some physicians choose to give blood transfusions to patients with higher blood counts if they are elderly or have cardiovascular disease. Normally, people have blood counts above 12 g/dL.

The study followed 2,016 patients aged 50 years or older with a history of or risk factors for cardiovascular disease, who underwent surgery for hip fracture. They were randomized into two groups: one that received a transfusion when their hemoglobin level fell below 10 g/dL (liberal group) and another that received a transfusion when they had symptoms of anemia, or at a physician's discretion if their hemoglobin was below 8 g/dL (restrictive group). The two groups had similar results for a large array of clinical outcomes, including risk for death within 60 days; functional recovery; risk for heart attack, infection, and falls; and symptoms such as fatigue. Median age was 82 years.

The difference in blood use was striking. Patients in the restrictive group received 65 percent fewer units of blood than the liberal group, and 58.5 percent of patients in the restrictive group did not receive any blood transfusion.

"As the medical community further embraces a restrictive approach to post-surgery blood transfusion, it's important that physicians carefully evaluate patients for symptoms of anemia, and not just rely on hemoglobin levels. The patient's body will often tell us when it needs blood," says Dr. Macaulay.

The FOCUS trial confirms findings of the 1999 Transfusion Requirements in Critical Care Investigators (TRICC) trial, which found that outcomes of a 7 g/dL transfusion threshold and a 10 g/dL threshold were similar for patients in an intensive care setting. FOCUS did not find evidence of increased rates of death, heart attack, or congestive heart failure in its liberal group, despite anecdotal evidence.


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Contact: Gloria Chin
glc9010@nyp.org
212-305-5587
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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