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Blood transfusions may increase the risk of death in critically ill patients

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.325.7367.735/a (Published 05 October 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:735
  1. Deborah Josefson
  1. Nebraska

    Doctors who give critically ill patients blood transfusions to correct their anaemia may be doing those patients a disservice, a new study has found.

    In a two part, multicentre international study involving 3543 patients drawn from 146 intensive care units across western Europe, patients who received packed red blood cell transfusions had a higher death rate than their similarly ill counterparts who did not receive transfusions (JAMA 2002;288:1499-507).

    Patients who were given a transfusion had significantly higher mortality in intensive care and overall mortality than patients who weren't, with 18.5% of patients in the transfusion group dying within 28 days, compared to 10.1% in the non-transfusion group (χ2=50.1; P< 0.001).

    When patients were matched for disease severity this disparity still held, with a 28 day mortality of 23% in the transfusion group and 17.1% in the non-transfusion group (χ2=5.1; P=0.02).

    In seriously ill patients anaemia …

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