Death by Decade: Establishing a Transfusion Ceiling for Futility in Massive Transfusion

Mackenzie C. Morris, Grace M. Niziolek, Jennifer E. Baker, Benjamin R. Huebner, Dennis Hanseman, Amy T. Makley, Timothy A. Pritts, Michael D. Goodman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: Age and massive transfusion are predictors of mortality after trauma. We hypothesized that increasing age and high-volume transfusion would result in progressively elevated mortality rates and that a transfusion “ceiling” would define futility. Methods: The Trauma Quality Improvement Program (TQIP) database was queried for 2013-2016 records and our level I trauma registry was reviewed from 2013 to 2018. Demographic, mortality, and blood transfusion data were collected. Patients were grouped by decade of life and by packed red blood cell (pRBC) transfusion requirement (zero units, 1-3 units, or ≥4 units) within 4 h of admission. Results: TQIP analysis demonstrated an in-hospital mortality risk that increased linearly with age, to an odds ratio of 10.1 in ≥80 y old (P < 0.01). Mortality rates were significantly higher in older adults (P < 0.01) and those with more pRBCs transfused. In massively transfused patients, the transfusion “ceiling” was dependent on age. Owing to the lack granularity in the TQIP database, 230 patients from our institution who received ≥4 units of pRBCs within 4 h of admission were reviewed. On arrival, younger patients had significantly higher heart rates and more severe derangements in lactate levels, base deficits, and pH compared with older patients. There were no differences among age groups in injury severity score, systolic blood pressure, or mortality. Conclusions: In massively transfused patients, mortality increased with age. However, a significant proportion of older adults were successfully resuscitated. Therefore, age alone should not be considered a contraindication to high-volume transfusion. Traditional physiologic and laboratory criteria indicative of hemorrhagic shock may have reduced reliability with increasing age, and thus providers must have a heightened suspicion for hemorrhage in the elderly. Early transfusion requirements can be combined with age to establish prognosis to define futility to help counsel families regarding mortality after traumatic injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-146
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Elderly
  • Hemorrhage
  • Massive transfusion
  • Resuscitation
  • Trauma


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