Blood product transfusion in emergency department patients: a case-control study of practice patterns and impact on outcome

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Background: Blood product transfusion occurs in a significant percentage of intensive care unit (ICU) patients. Pulmonary complications, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), occurring in the setting of transfusion, are associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Contrary to the ICU setting, there is little evidence describing the epidemiology of transfusion in the emergency department (ED) or its potential impact on outcome. The objectives of this study were to: (1) characterize transfusion practices in the ED with respect to patient characteristics and pre-transfusion laboratory values; and (2) investigate the effect of ED blood product transfusion on the incidence of pulmonary complications after admission. We hypothesized that blood product transfusion would increase the event rate for pulmonary complications, and have a negative impact on other clinically significant outcomes. Methods: This was a retrospective case-control study with one-one matching of 204 transfused ED patients to 204 non-transfused controls. The primary outcome was a composite pulmonary outcome that included: acute respiratory failure, new need for ICU admission, and ARDS. Multivariable logistic regression was used to evaluate the primary outcome as a function of transfusion. Results: One-hundred twenty four (60.8%) patients were transfused packed red blood cells (PRBC) in the ED. The mean pre-transfusion hemoglobin level was 8.5 g/dl. There were 73 patients with a hemoglobin value ≥10 g/dl; 19 (26.0%) received a PRBC transfusion. A total of 54 (26.5%) patients were transfused platelets. The main indications were thrombocytopenia (27.8%) and neurologic injury (24.1%). Ten patients had a platelet level <10,000 (guideline recommended threshold for transfusion to prevent spontaneous hemorrhage). The mean platelet count for neurologic injury patients was 197,000 prior to transfusion. The primary outcome occurred in 26 control patients (12.7%), as compared with 28 cases (13.7%). In multivariable logistic regression analysis, ED transfusion was not associated with an increased odds of primary outcome [adjusted OR 0.91 (0.48–1.72), P = 0.77]. The mortality rate was 10.8% in the cases and 8.8% in the controls, P = 0.51. Conclusions: A significant percentage of ED blood product transfusions are discordant with guideline recommendations. However, there was no association with ED transfusion and worse clinical outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalInternational Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • ARDS
  • Blood transfusion
  • Emergency department


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