Transfusions of blood products can be lifesaving, but they are also associated with considerable risks and adverse effects, including immune response and infections. In cardiac surgery, transfusions have also been associated with increased mortality. We prospectively studied the effects of a structured programme to reduce transfusions and transfusion-associated costs in cardiac surgery.
The programme included: (i) education of all staff about the risks and benefits of blood transfusions; (ii) revised guidelines for transfusions; and (iii) a transfusion log where indication for transfusion, status of the patient and prescribing physician were registered. Transfusion prevalence, complications and costs for blood products were registered for all acute and elective cardiac operations during a 12-month period before (n = 1128) and after (n = 1034) the programme was started. The two time periods were compared. In addition, the prevalence of transfusions was registered for 2 more years after the programme was initiated.
The first year after the programme was initiated the proportion of patients transfused with red blood cell concentrate decreased by 21.8% (from 58.2 to 45.5%, P