Objective: To assess the effect of implementation of population-specific postoperative management guidelines on postoperative transfusion in children undergoing cranial vault reconstruction surgery.
Design: Retrospective observational study with historical controls.
Setting: Single, large, academic tertiary pediatric hospital.
Patients: : Children aged 6 months to 17 yrs undergoing fronto-orbital advancement or posterior cranial vault reconstruction surgery enrolled in our craniofacial surgery perioperative registry from April 14, 2008 to September 7, 2011.
Intervention: Postoperative management guidelines for children undergoing cranial vault reconstruction surgery were implemented on December 1, 2009. These management guidelines included projected surgical drain output as well as specific transfusion thresholds for packed red blood cells and hemostatic blood products.
Measurements and main results: We queried our craniofacial surgery perioperative registry for children who underwent cranial vault reconstruction to assess transfusion practices before and after the implementation of the postoperative guidelines. Subjects were divided into a preguideline cohort and a postguideline cohort. Perioperative demographic data and postoperative transfusion data were compared between the two groups. The registry query returned data on 59 procedures in the preguideline cohort and 58 procedures in the postguideline cohort. The immediate postoperative hematocrit and the postoperative blood loss through surgical drains were not statistically different in the two groups. The prevalence of postoperative transfusion of any blood product was significantly less in the postguideline cohort (17% vs. 42%, p = .003). Most of the transfusion reduction was achieved through a reduction in fresh frozen plasma transfusion (5% vs. 25%, p = .002).
Conclusions: In this observational study, the implementation of postoperative management guidelines was associated with a 60% reduction in postoperative transfusion. The use of transfusion thresholds is a simple, inexpensive, and effective strategy for transfusion reduction and should be a first-line approach to perioperative transfusion reduction in this population.