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Study links blood transfusions to surgery complications in women
Date:11/30/2007

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Reasons for the gender gap are unclear. Doctors typically measure a patients hematocrit value, or red blood cell count, before ordering a blood transfusion. Women tend to have lower concentrations of red blood cells than men throughout their lives, Blumberg said. This does not always warrant a transfusion, as the red cell concentration alone does not determine the likelihood of complications from anemia. The study showed that when men and women had equivalent, normal preoperative red blood counts, 99 percent of the women still received transfusions, compared to 62 percent of the men. This suggests a reliance on the red cell concentration as the prime factor in determining when a transfusion is given, the authors said.

Although a direct connection between blood transfusions and infections is being debated among scientists, several studies support the notion that donor blood can provoke a negative response from the patients immune system.

Of the 380 patients, 13 died while in the hospital; all of the 13 patients received blood transfusions, and infection was strongly related to death. Blood transfusions correlated with more days of fever, more days in intensive care, and a longer hospital stay, particularly if the patient got more than four units of blood. Women were more likely to die in the hospital (6.7 percent) than men (1.3 percent), and 11 percent of the women in the study developed pulmonary dysfunction after surgery, compared with 3.9 percent of the men.

Blood transfusions are very common. The study reports that 41 percent to 71 percent of all Americans have a blood transfusion within their lifetimes. For the year 2003 (the most recent year data was available) a transfusion was the most common procedure performed in U.S. hospitals, according to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), a government/industry database widely used by scientists.

Judgments among doctors and hospital transfusion policies can v
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Contact: Leslie Orr
Leslie_Orr@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-5774
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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