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Blood Transfus. 2013 Apr;11(2):289-95. doi: 10.2450/2013.0172-12. Epub 2013 Feb 6.

The impact of a restrictive transfusion trigger on post-operative complication rate and well-being following elective orthopaedic surgery: a post-hoc analysis of a randomised study.

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Department of Research and Development, Sanquin Blood Bank South West Region, Leiden, The Netherlands.



Peri-operative red blood cell transfusions have been associated with post-operative complications in patients undergoing elective orthopaedic hip or knee replacement surgery.


We performed a post-hoc analysis of data extracted from a randomised study on transfusion triggers using pre-storage leucocyte-depleted red blood cells. Patients who were assigned to the most restrictive transfusion policy ("restrictive group") were compared with patients who were assigned to the most liberal policy ("liberal group"). End-points were red blood cell use, hospital stay, haemoglobin levels, post-operative complications and quality of life scores.


Of 603 patients, 26.4% patients in the restrictive group and 39.1% in the liberal group were transfused (P =0.001). The rate of post-operative infections was lower, although not statistically significantly so, in the restrictive group than in the liberal group (5.4% vs. 10.2%, respectively) as was the rate of respiratory complications (1.7% vs. 4.9%, respectively), whereas hospital stay, cardiovascular complications and mortality rate were not different in the two groups. Quality of life scores were not associated with type of transfusion policy, the number of red blood cell transfusions or the transfusion status.


A restrictive transfusion protocol was not associated with worse outcome and resulted in a lower transfusion rate compared to the liberal policy. Well-being (quality of life) was not associated with transfusion policy or with red blood cell transfusions.

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