Safety and effects of two red blood cell transfusion strategies in pediatric cardiac surgery patients: a randomized controlled trial

Intensive Care Med. 2013 Nov;39(11):2011-9. doi: 10.1007/s00134-013-3085-7. Epub 2013 Aug 31.


Objective: To investigate the safety and effects of a restrictive red blood cell (RBC) transfusion strategy in pediatric cardiac surgery patients.

Design: Randomized controlled trial.

Setting: Pediatric ICU in an academic tertiary care center, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.

Patients: One hundred seven patients with non-cyanotic congenital heart defects between 6 weeks and 6 years of age. One hundred three patients underwent corrective surgery on cardiopulmonary bypass.

Interventions: Prior to surgery patients were randomly assigned to one of two groups with specific RBC transfusion thresholds: Hb 10.8 g/dl (6.8 mmol/l) and Hb 8.0 g/dl (5.0 mmol/l).

Measurements: Length of stay in hospital (primary outcome), length of stay in PICU, duration of ventilation (secondary outcome), incidence of adverse events and complications related to randomization (intention to treat analysis).

Results: In the restrictive transfusion group, mean volume of transfused RBC was 186 (±70) ml per patient and in the liberal transfusion group 258 (±87) ml per patient, (95% CI 40.6-104.6), p < 0.001. Length of hospital stay was shorter in patients with a restrictive RBC transfusion strategy: median 8 (IQR 7-11) vs. 9 (IQR 7-14) days, p = 0.047. All other outcome measures and incidence of adverse effects were equal in both RBC transfusion groups. Cost of blood products for the liberal transfusion group was 438.35 (±203.39) vs. 316.27 (±189.96) euros (95% CI 46.61-197.51) per patient in the restrictive transfusion group, p = 0.002.

Conclusions: For patients with a non-cyanotic congenital heart defect undergoing elective cardiac surgery, a restrictive RBC transfusion policy (threshold of Hb 8.0 g/dl) during the entire perioperative period is safe, leads to a shorter hospital stay and is less expensive.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion*
  • Female
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Patient Safety
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Respiration, Artificial / statistics & numerical data
  • Treatment Outcome