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J Clin Oncol. 2000 Jul;18(14):2755-61.

Cost of outpatient blood transfusion in cancer patients.

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Analysis Group/Economics, Cambridge, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, USA.



To determine the cost of outpatient RBC transfusion from the provider's perspective at a major urban, academic cancer center.


We retrospectively studied 517 cancer patients with hematologic or solid tumors who received blood during fiscal year 1995 to 1996. A process-flow diagram was developed, and cost and utilization data for 12 months were collected and analyzed. A structured interview process was used to identify all direct and indirect costs from within the inpatient unit, blood bank, and outpatient clinic. Average costs were computed for the entire sample and for specific subgroups.


In 1998 dollars, the average cost per RBC unit was $469 for adults and $568 for pediatric cancer patients. Adults and children generally received two and one RBC units per transfusion, respectively. Therefore, the average cost of a two-unit transfusion was $938 for adults. Patients with hematologic tumors required more RBC units (7.1 RBC units per year) at a higher average cost ($512 per RBC unit) than patients with solid tumors (4.7 RBC units per year, $474 per RBC unit). Further variations across tumor types were observed. Overhead, direct material, and direct labor represented 46%, 19%, and 35% of total costs respectively.


The cost of outpatient RBC transfusions in cancer patients is higher than previously reported, in part because overhead costs and fixed costs might have been underestimated in previous studies. Furthermore, age, tumor type, and geographic variations in the cost of fixed assets and labor have a substantial impact on the cost of blood. The results indicate that the cost-effectiveness of alternatives to transfusions in the management of cancer patients may have been underestimated in the existing literature.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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