Introduction: : Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a serious complication of cardiac surgery, and preoperative anemia and perioperative erythrocyte transfusion are important risk factors. Prophylactic erythrocyte transfusion in anemic patients may, therefore, protect against AKI.
Methods: : In this unblinded, parallel-group, randomized pilot trial, 60 anemic patients (hemoglobin 10-12 g/dL) undergoing cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass were randomized (1:1) to prophylactic transfusion (2 units of erythrocytes transfused 1 to 2 days before surgery (n = 29) or standard of care (transfusions as indicated; n = 31). Between-group differences in severity of perioperative anemia, transfusion, and AKI (more than 25% drop in estimated glomerular filtration rate) were measured. The relationships between transfusion, iron levels, and AKI were also measured.
Results: : Perioperative anemia and erythrocyte transfusions were lower in the prophylactic transfusion group--median (25th, 75th percentiles) for nadir hemoglobin was 8.3 (7.9, 9.1) versus 7.6 (6.9, 8.2) g/dL (P = 0.0008) and for transfusion was 0 (0, 2) versus 2 (1, 4) units (P = 0.0002)--but between-group AKI rates were comparable (11 patients per group). In 35 patients with iron studies, perioperative transfusions were directly related to postoperative transferrin saturation (correlation coefficient 0.6; P = 0.0002), and high (more than 80%) transferrin saturation was associated with AKI (5/5 vs. 8/30; P = 0.005), implicating transfusion-related iron overload as a cause of AKI.
Conclusions: : In anemic patients, prophylactic erythrocyte transfusion reduces perioperative anemia and erythrocyte transfusions, and may reduce plasma iron levels. Adequately powered studies assessing the effect of this intervention on AKI are warranted.