Introduction: Peri-operative allogeneic blood transfusion may exert an immunomodulatory effect and has been associated with early recurrence and decreased survival following resection for several gastro-intestinal malignancies. The aim of this study was to evaluate the prognostic influence of transfusion requirements following radical oesophagectomy for cancer.
Methods: A consecutive series of 235 patients undergoing subtotal oesophagectomy with two-field lymphadenectomy in a single centre from April 1990 to June 1999 were studied.
Results: The median age was 64 years (30-79) with a male to female ratio of 3:1. The predominant histological subtype was adenocarcinoma (n = 154) compared to squamous carcinoma (n = 81). To avoid the influence of surgical complications data were excluded from the 5.5% of patients suffering in-hospital mortality. In the remaining patients, median blood loss was 900 ml (200-5500) with 46% (103/222) requiring transfusion (median 3 units, range 2-21). Median survival of non-transfused patients was 36 months compared to only 19 months for those receiving transfusion (log-rank = 4.44; 1 df, P = 0.0352). Non-transfused patients had significantly higher 2 and 5-year survival rates of 62% and 41% respectively in contrast to only 40% and 25% in those receiving blood transfusion. Even after stratification of results according to disease stage or the presence of major complications, survival was significantly worse in those receiving transfusion. Multivariate analysis demonstrated that in addition to nodal status, > 4 units transfusion was an independent prognostic indicator.
Conclusion: Post-operative transfusion is associated with a significantly worse prognosis following radical oesophagectomy. Meticulous haemostasis and avoidance of unnecessary transfusion may prove oncologically beneficial.