Transfusion and pulmonary morbidity after cardiac surgery

Ann Thorac Surg. 2009 Nov;88(5):1410-8. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2009.07.020.


Background: True lung injury is among the leading causes of transfusion-related mortality. Pulmonary morbidity after cardiac surgery has been related to damaging effects of cardiopulmonary bypass and transfusion, but is confounded by cardiac-related events that may not reflect true lung injury. Thus, cardiac surgery poses unique challenges to criteria-specific diagnosis of transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI). Our objective was to determine the prevalence of pulmonary morbidity related to transfusion and whether TRALI consensus-criteria are applicable to cardiac surgery.

Methods: A total of 16,847 patients underwent on-pump, coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), valve, or CABG-valve surgery from September 1998 to February 1, 2006. We performed four propensity-score-matching analyses with logistic regression on probability of receiving a transfusion: total hospital red blood cell (RBC) and fresh frozen plasma (FFP) transfusion and intraoperative RBC and FFP transfusion. Outcomes included traditional cardiac-surgery-defined pulmonary morbidity and ratio of arterial partial pressure of oxygen to fractional inspired oxygen concentration (PaO(2)/FiO(2)), a criterion for TRALI.

Results: Patients receiving RBC transfusion had more risk-adjusted pulmonary complications: respiratory distress 4.8% vs 1.5%, p < 0.001; respiratory failure 2.2% vs 0.39%, p < 0.0001; longer intubation times, 9.9 hours vs 7.5 hours, p < 0.0001; acute respiratory distress syndrome, 0.64% vs 0.21%, p = 0.015; and reintubation, 5.6% vs 1.3%, p < 0.0001. The FFP was similarly related to more pulmonary complications after surgery. By TRALI criteria, the majority manifested "lung injury" (PaO(2)/FiO(2) ratio < 300) but unrelated to transfusion (65% vs 64%).

Conclusions: Transfusion is associated with many measures of postoperative pulmonary morbidity. Yet the PaO(2)/FiO(2) ratio as important criterion of TRALI is unrelated to transfusion. Thus, due to the nature of cardiac surgery, application of consensus guided diagnosis of TRALI is problematic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Lung Injury / etiology*
  • Adult
  • Coronary Artery Bypass / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Transfusion Reaction*