Objective: To assess whether a restrictive strategy of RBC transfusion reduces 28-day mortality when compared with a liberal strategy in cancer patients with septic shock.
Design: Single center, randomized, double-blind controlled trial.
Setting: Teaching hospital.
Patients: Adult cancer patients with septic shock in the first 6 hours of ICU admission.
Interventions: Patients were randomized to the liberal (hemoglobin threshold, < 9 g/dL) or to the restrictive strategy (hemoglobin threshold, < 7 g/dL) of RBC transfusion during ICU stay.
Measurements and main results: Patients were randomized to the liberal (n = 149) or to the restrictive transfusion strategy (n = 151) group. Patients in the liberal group received more RBC units than patients in the restrictive group (1 [0-3] vs 0 [0-2] unit; p < 0.001). At 28 days after randomization, mortality rate in the liberal group (primary endpoint of the study) was 45% (67 patients) versus 56% (84 patients) in the restrictive group (hazard ratio, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.53-1.04; p = 0.08) with no differences in ICU and hospital length of stay. At 90 days after randomization, mortality rate in the liberal group was lower (59% vs 70%) than in the restrictive group (hazard ratio, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.53-0.97; p = 0.03).
Conclusions: We observed a survival trend favoring a liberal transfusion strategy in patients with septic shock when compared with the restrictive strategy. These results went in the opposite direction of the a priori hypothesis and of other trials in the field and need to be confirmed.