Introduction: Contingency plans have been developed to direct appropriate responses to blood shortages. Planning requires an understanding of the potential savings of different conservation strategies.
Method: The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Haemovigilance and ACT Pathology transfusion databases were reviewed from March to September 2003. All transfusion episodes were prioritised in accordance with the Australian National Blood Supply Contingency Plan. The number of red cell transfusions related to various indications, their appropriateness and acuity was determined. The potential reduction in red cell usage was modelled for potential red cell reduction interventions.
Results: There were 2305 units of red cells captured during the timeframes of the audits. This accounted for an estimated 70% of all red cell transfusions in the ACT. After correcting for the number of red cells transfused at each hospital, red cells were prioritised as category 1 in 59%, 2 in 27% and 3 in 13%. The remainder had insufficient data for classification. Transfusion for elective surgery accounted for 14.7% of red cells used, with 9.0% rated category 3 under the contingency plan. There were 17.3% of red cells transfused for inappropriate indications, when reviewed against national guidelines. After excluding inappropriate transfusions, cancelling elective surgery could potentially save a further 5.5% and 4.3% of blood utilisation for category 3 and 2 patients, respectively. Significant differences were found between hospitals.
Conclusion: Targeting inappropriate transfusions by vetting particularly for inappropriate transfusions not only re-directs blood away from those unlikely to benefit, but is also more effective at preserving the red blood cells than other measures during times of supply limitation. Contingency planning needs to accommodate the variable case-mix in hospitals, allocate resources for transfusion medicine specialists to review every transfusion request and may be better coordinated at a jurisdictional level.
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