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Blood Transfusions Raise Heart Patients’ Infection and Death Ris

saving, and that the infections observed in this study are not likely due to contamination of the blood. Rather, they may be due to other factors, including the patient’s immune response to substances such as white blood cells that are present in stored donor blood. These findings may help guide hospitals and blood banks in deciding whether to filter donated blood to reduce the levels of white blood cells. This practice is increasingly common, but not yet universal, in the United States.

The study is based on analysis of data from all Medicare beneficiaries ages 65 and older who had coronary artery bypass operations in Michigan in a single year.

The researchers performed statistical analyses that took into account the patients’ blood transfusion status, their co-existing diseases, age, race, sex, and whether the bypass operation was done on an elective, urgent or emergency basis. They looked at infections and deaths that were reported during the 100 days after surgery.

In all, about 88 percent of women received an allogeneic blood transfusion during bypass surgery, compared with nearly 67 percent of men. When the researchers adjusted for other factors, women were 3.4 times as likely as men to receive blood. This gender difference was evident regardless of whether the operation was elective, urgent or emergency.

The odds of having an infection of any kind were about three times greater in patients who received allogeneic blood than in patients who did not. The more blood they received, the higher their infection risk. This “dose dependent” relationship strengthens the evidence that transfusions may be related to infections.

No single type of infection stood out as more common among blood recipients, which suggests a body-wide immune response issue rather than a problem, for example, at the site of the incision.

The analyses revealed that women were more likely to experience an infection than
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