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Age of Blood Affects Survival / Recovery After Transfusion

Submitted by jrlaw on Mar 19th, 2008

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 5 million Americans receive blood transfusions each year. In a study reported today in the New England Journal of Medicine, those who received blood older than two weeks were 30 percent more likely to die than patients who were given fresh blood. The maximum time allowed for blood to be held and distributed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is six weeks. While using the freshest blood first or shortening the allowed storage time would seem like a valid solution, blood banks are already strapped in the amount of fresh blood they have.

The study's leader, Dr. Colleen Gorman Koch of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, said that another option is reducing the need for transfusion by encouraging hospitals to utilize a blood management program. She mentioned a method of scavenging and recycling blood that would normally be lost in a cardiac surgery, for example. An option specifically for nonemergency surgeries is to treat any underlying anemia prior to surgery in order to decrease the need for blood.

Koch's team studied 6,002 patients who received heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and compared the outcome with the storage time of the blood transfused in each operation. Among fresh blood recipients, the rate of death while in the hospital was 1.7 percent, whereas the in-hospital death rate for those who received older blood was 2.8 percent. Rates for complications such as kidney failure, infection, respirator use and multiorgan failure were also higher if older blood was used.