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N Engl J Med. 1992 Aug 6;327(6):369-73.

The declining risk of post-transfusion hepatitis C virus infection.

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Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205.



The most common serious complication of blood transfusion is post-transfusion hepatitis from the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Blood banks now screen blood donors for surrogate markers of non-A, non-B hepatitis and antibodies to HCV, but the current risk of post-transfusion hepatitis C is unknown.


From 1985 through 1991, blood samples and medical information were obtained prospectively from patients before and at least six months after cardiac surgery. The stored serum samples were tested for antibodies to HCV by enzyme immunoassay, and by recombinant immunoblotting if positive.


Of the 912 patients who received transfusions before donors were screened for surrogate markers, 35 seroconverted to HCV, for a risk of 3.84 percent per patient (0.45 percent per unit transfused). For the 976 patients who received transfusions after October 1986 with blood screened for surrogate markers, the risk of seroconversion was 1.54 percent per patient (0.19 percent per unit). For the 522 patients receiving transfusions since the addition in May 1990 of screening for antibodies to HCV, the risk was 0.57 percent per patient (0.03 percent per unit). The trend toward decreasing risk with increasingly stringent screening of donors was statistically significant (P less than 0.001). After we controlled for the method of donor screening, the risk of seroconversion was strongly associated (P less than 0.001) with the volume of blood transfused, but not with the use of particular blood components.


The incidence of post-transfusion hepatitis C has decreased markedly since the implementation of donor screening for surrogate markers and antibodies to HCV. The current risk of post-transfusion hepatitis is about 3 per 10,000 units transfused.

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