Background: Immunosuppression is a consequence of allogeneic (homologous) blood transfusion (ABT) in humans and is associated with an increased risk in cancer recurrence rates after potentially curative surgery as well as an increase in the frequency of postoperative bacterial infections. Although a meta-analysis has been reported demonstrating the relationship between ABT and colon cancer recurrence, no meta-analysis has been reported demonstrating the relationship of ABT to postoperative bacterial infection.
Methods: Twenty peer-reviewed articles published from 1986 to 2000 were included in a meta-analysis. Criteria for inclusion included a clearly defined control group (nontransfused) compared with a treated (transfused) group and statistical analysis of accumulated data that included stepwise multivariate logistic regression analysis. In addition, a subgroup of publications that included only the traumatically injured patient was included in a separate meta-analysis. A fixed effects analysis was conducted with odds ratios obtained by using the conditional maximum likelihood method and 95% confidence intervals on the obtained odds ratios were determined using the mid-p technique.
Results: The total number of subjects included in this meta-analysis was 13,152 (5,215 in the transfused group and 7,937 in the nontransfused group). The common odds ratio for all articles included in this meta-analysis evaluating the association of ABT to the incidence of postoperative bacterial infection was 3.45 (range, 1.43-15.15), with 17 of the 20 studies demonstrating a value of p < or = 0.05. These results provide overwhelming evidence that ABT is associated with a significantly increased risk of postoperative bacterial infection in the surgical patient. The common odds ratio of the subgroup of trauma patients was 5.263 (range, 5.03-5.43), with all studies showing a value of p < 0.05 (0.005-0.0001). These results demonstrate that ABT is associated with a greater risk of postoperative bacterial infection in the trauma patient when compared with those patients receiving ABT during or after elective surgery.
Conclusion: These results demonstrate that ABT is an associated and apparently significant and frequently overlooked risk factor for the development of postoperative bacterial infection in the surgical patient. Allogeneic blood transfusion is a greater risk factor in the traumatically injured patient when compared with the elective surgical patient for the development of postoperative bacterial infection.