Changing indications for red cell transfusion from 2000 to 2004 in the North of England

Transfus Med. 2006 Dec;16(6):411-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3148.2006.00702.x.


Falling donor numbers and the threat of transfusion-transmitted variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease may lead to shortages in the national blood supply. Knowledge of current patterns of transfusion and trends in usage will help predict future change in blood use. Our previous survey identified medical indications as the major reason for transfusion, but detailed information within this category was limited. We performed prospective surveys of indications for red cell transfusion for two 14-day periods in 2004 in the North of England, concentrating on medical reasons for transfusion. Data were obtained for transfusion indications of 9003 units, which accounted for over 99% of red cell issues from the regional blood centre during the study. In 2004, medical patients received 62% (5558 units) of all transfused units, surgical patients 33% (3001 units) and Obstetric & Gynaecology patients 5% (444 units). These figures compare with 52, 41 and 6% for Medicine, Surgery, and Obstetrics & Gynaecology in 1999/2000. The three largest uses of blood within the medical category were for patients with primary haematological disorders (18.2% of all transfused blood), for management of gastrointestinal haemorrhage (13.8%) and for patients with nonhaematological malignancies (8.8%). There has been a significant reduction in use of blood for surgical indications over the last 5 years, but an absolute increase in use of blood for medical indications. Lower transfusion triggers, education, use of cell salvage, the increasing price of a unit of red cells and changing population demographics may all have contributed to the reduction in surgical blood use. Promotion of good transfusion practice and alternatives to allogeneic transfusion should now focus on medical and surgical use of blood transfusion.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Community Health Planning*
  • England
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / statistics & numerical data*
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / trends*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / trends