Background: Blood transfusions are frequently given to patients with septic shock. However, the benefits and harms of different hemoglobin thresholds for transfusion have not been established.
Methods: In this multicenter, parallel-group trial, we randomly assigned patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) who had septic shock and a hemoglobin concentration of 9 g per deciliter or less to receive 1 unit of leukoreduced red cells when the hemoglobin level was 7 g per deciliter or less (lower threshold) or when the level was 9 g per deciliter or less (higher threshold) during the ICU stay. The primary outcome measure was death by 90 days after randomization.
Results: We analyzed data from 998 of 1005 patients (99.3%) who underwent randomization. The two intervention groups had similar baseline characteristics. In the ICU, the lower-threshold group received a median of 1 unit of blood (interquartile range, 0 to 3) and the higher-threshold group received a median of 4 units (interquartile range, 2 to 7). At 90 days after randomization, 216 of 502 patients (43.0%) assigned to the lower-threshold group, as compared with 223 of 496 (45.0%) assigned to the higher-threshold group, had died (relative risk, 0.94; 95% confidence interval, 0.78 to 1.09; P=0.44). The results were similar in analyses adjusted for risk factors at baseline and in analyses of the per-protocol populations. The numbers of patients who had ischemic events, who had severe adverse reactions, and who required life support were similar in the two intervention groups.
Conclusions: Among patients with septic shock, mortality at 90 days and rates of ischemic events and use of life support were similar among those assigned to blood transfusion at a higher hemoglobin threshold and those assigned to blood transfusion at a lower threshold; the latter group received fewer transfusions. (Funded by the Danish Strategic Research Council and others; TRISS ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01485315.).