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Transfus Apher Sci. 2005 Nov;33(3):343-9. Epub 2005 Oct 4.

A provincial program of blood conservation: The Ontario Transfusion Coordinators (ONTraC).

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St. Michael's Hospital and The University of Toronto, 30 Bond Street, Toronto, Ont., Canada.



Although often life-saving, blood transfusions are associated with significant risk to the patient and escalating costs to the blood system and hospital. Transfusions are often given unnecessarily. Blood conservation represents the use of alternatives to transfusion. The ONTraC program attempts to enhance transfusion practice outside the blood transfusion laboratory, promote blood conservation in surgery patients, and reduce allogeneic red cell use.


In the first such large scale program, funding was obtained from the Ontario MOHLTC for a Transfusion Coordinator in 23 Ontario hospitals selected based on blood utilization and geography. At specific time periods, detailed anonymized information was collected in a defined number of all consecutive patients admitted for the three designated surgical procedures: knee arthroplasty (N=approximately 1200 at each time point), abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA; N=300 at each time) and coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery (N=300 at each time point).


Considerable inter-institutional variation was observed in the proportion of patients and amount of blood transfused. At the 12 month analysis, most, although not all, hospitals had decreased use of allogeneic blood and there was an overall 24% reduction in blood use in patients undergoing knee surgery, 14% in AAA and 23% in CABG. In addition to reduction in proportion of patients transfused, transfused patients received fewer units of allogeneic blood. Patients who did not receive allogeneic transfusions had significantly lower postoperative infection rates (p<0.05) and length of stay (p<0.0001); multivariate analysis showed that allogeneic transfusion was an independent predictor of increased length of stay. Eighteen-month analysis indicates even greater reduction in allogeneic transfusion. The main measures of blood conservation employed were preoperative autologous donation and education, with recent increasing use of erythropoietin and the cell saver. These measures have been demonstrated to be very effective in avoiding allogeneic transfusion.


The ONTraC have become leaders locally, nationally and internationally in blood conservation. The reduction in allogeneic transfusion associated with the implementation of the ONTraC program represents important savings in costs associated with blood components, hospital stay and work in transfusion laboratories and nursing units, as well as enhancing patient satisfaction and safety.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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