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Blood transfusions in critically ill patients – ‘freshest’ blood not necessarily the best

27 September 2017

A new clinical trial called TRANSFUSE, has found the age of transfused blood cells did not impact patient survival rates among critically ill adults. The findings end speculation that fresher blood may be superior for critically ill patients. The study, funded in Ireland by the Health Research Board also found fewer transfusion reactions, including fever, with the older blood; and in the most severely ill patients, the transfusion of older blood was associated with fewer deaths’.

The trial involved 4,919 patients, at 59 centres in five countries, including Ireland. The findings are published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Professor Alistair Nichol, Chair of Critical Care Medicine in UCD and Consultant Invensivist in St Vincent’s University Hospital who led the Irish arm of the trial, said

‘The findings of our trial confirm that the current duration of storage of red blood cells for transfusion is both safe and optimal. In fact, older blood appears to be like a good red wine, in that, it’s a little better with some age’.

Routine practice in most hospitals is to allocate the oldest available compatible blood. Concerns regarding changes in the red blood cells for transfusion during storage, have led some doctors to request fresher blood for specific patients and influenced some blood transfusion services to change their blood storage practices under the belief the ‘fresh must be best’.

Dr Mairead O’Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive at the Health Research Board said,

‘This is a powerful demonstration of how research can directly inform clinical practice, improve patient outcomes and minimise costs. It’s also great to see that the Health Research Board’s investment in Irish clinical research capacity has facilitated Irish participation in an international study which is likely to have a global impact’.

You can read more in the HRB press release at the link below

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