Goal 2: Reduce Human Disease

Re-evaluating Hemoglobin Thresholds for Red Blood Cell Transfusion Decisions

Are there specific conditions where a liberal transfusion strategy results in lower 30-day mortality as compared to a restrictive transfusion strategy?

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Is this idea a Compelling Question (CQ) or Critical Challenge (CC)? : Compelling Question (CQ)

Details on the impact of addressing this CQ or CC :

 Clinical trial data show that in multiple patient populations, a 7 to 8 g/dL hemoglobin threshold for red blood cell transfusion is safe. However, equipoise for transfusion thresholds persists in patients with ischemic heart disease and acute neurological conditions where a higher hemoglobin level may decrease ischemic injury to myocardial and cerebral tissues, respectively. Alternatively, liberal red blood cell transfusion may be associated with adverse outcomes such as pulmonary edema or increased rates of heart failure. In other populations, it is possible that even lower transfusion thresholds than 7 g/dL would be safely tolerated. On the other hand, if a 7 g/dL threshold is found to be superior to a lower threshold, this would establish a minimal appropriate threshold to initiate red blood cell transfusion.

Feasibility and challenges of addressing this CQ or CC :

Multicenter clinical trials that utilize markers of oxygen consumption are needed to answer these questions. A pilot study in patients with acute myocardial infarction demonstrated that recruitment was feasible for clinical scenarios in which equipoise exists. An international setting where the safety and availability of the blood supply remain significant issues may be best suited to answer the question of whether transfusion thresholds lower than 7 g/dL are safe.

Name of idea submitter and other team members who worked on this idea : Nareg Roubinian, MD and Naomi Luban, MD for the 2015 NHLBI State of the Science in Transfusion Medicine

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Idea No. 441