A retrospective study evaluating single-unit red blood cell transfusions in reducing allogeneic blood exposure

Transfus Med. 2005 Aug;15(4):307-12. doi: 10.1111/j.0958-7578.2005.00592.x.


Although guidelines recommend the use of single-unit red blood cell (RBC) transfusions to minimize allogeneic blood exposure, clinical practice remains dominated by two-unit transfusions. This study assesses the potential impact of a single-unit transfusion policy on reducing RBC utilization. We performed a retrospective analysis of adult patients admitted to a tertiary care hospital who received one or two RBC units. In subjects transfused two units, the effect of one unit was estimated by dividing the change in haemoglobin by 2. The proportion of patients reaching a haemoglobin threshold of 70, 75, 80, 85 and 90 g L(-1) with a single RBC unit was estimated. Of 302 included patients, only 65 received a one-unit transfusion. Based on thresholds of > or = 90, > or = 80 and > or = 70 g L(-1), a single-unit transfusion would be sufficient in 42.0% (RRR = 0.54), 79.6% (RRR = 0.23) and 98.0% (RRR = 0.02) of cases, respectively. This corresponds to 0.21, 0.57 and 0.82 mean RBC units saved per patient. In the orthopaedic subpopulation, the mean RBC units saved are 0.53, 0.88 and 1.00 for the same haemoglobin targets. Adopting a policy of transfusing RBC in single-unit aliquots could significantly improve RBC utilization and decrease patient exposure to allogeneic blood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / adverse effects
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / statistics & numerical data*
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Care Rationing
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Medical Audit
  • Orthopedic Procedures
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Hemoglobins