Red blood cell transfusion trigger in cardiac surgery

Gavin J. Murphy*, Nishith N. Patel, Jonathan A C Sterne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


In cardiac surgery, the principal aim of red blood cell transfusion is to maintain oxygen delivery and prevent tissue hypoxia in the setting of acute anaemia and severe bleeding. Both these clinical indications are common, and over 50% of all cardiac surgery patients receive red blood cell transfusion, utilising a significant proportion of blood service resources in developed countries. Severe anaemia accounts for the vast majority of all red blood cells used; however, there is uncertainty as to what constitutes a safe level of anaemia or a trigger for transfusion. There is also uncertainty as to the risks and benefits of transfusion; experimental and early clinical studies suggest that transfusion may promote organ injury. Existing blood management guidelines recommend restrictive transfusion practice, and this is supported by observational analyses in cardiac surgery patients showing strong associations between transfusion and adverse outcome. However, these studies fail to address the important clinical question as to what constitutes the anaemia threshold where transfusion is indicated. They are also beset my multiple sources of bias that confound analysis and contribute to.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTransfusion in the Intensive Care Unit
PublisherSpringer International Publishing AG
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9783319087351
ISBN (Print)9783319087344
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


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