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Study Finds Fewer Blood Transfusions Needed After Hip Surgeries
Date:12/14/2011

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Less may be more when it comes to blood transfusions after surgery.

New research shows that such transfusions did not speed recovery or reduce the risk of dying among more than 2,000 elderly people who had hip surgery.

More than 15 million units of blood are transfused in the United States each year, often to elderly patients recovering from surgery. Many doctors are starting to use less blood after surgery, but whether or not this practice was safe and in whom was not known until now.

The study, which appears online Dec. 14 in the New England Journal of Medicine, may help reshape how and when blood transfusions are given to patients as they recover from surgery.

Some patients were assigned to a "liberal transfusion" group. They received blood transfusions if their hemoglobin was less than 10 grams per deciliter of blood. Others were placed in a "restrictive transfusion" strategy, and were given blood if their hemoglobin dropped below 8 grams per deciliter. Even individuals in the restrictive group received a blood transfusion if they showed symptoms of blood loss including chest pain, heart failure or unexplained excessive heart rate. Forty percent received blood based on their symptoms.

Hemoglobin is the main component of red blood cells. Its job is to carry oxygen throughout the body. Levels should be greater than 12 to 13 grams per deciliter of blood. Low hemoglobin levels after surgery suggest that blood loss has occurred. As a result, many surgeons will order blood transfusions based on these levels.

Thirty to 60 days after surgery, there were no differences in the ability to walk without assistance or the rate of death or heart attacks seen among the patients regardless of which group they were placed in. Individuals in the liberal group got nearly three times as much blood as those in the restricted group,
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