Background: The effect of a restrictive versus liberal red-cell transfusion strategy on clinical outcomes in patients undergoing cardiac surgery remains unclear.
Methods: In this multicenter, open-label, noninferiority trial, we randomly assigned 5243 adults undergoing cardiac surgery who had a European System for Cardiac Operative Risk Evaluation (EuroSCORE) I of 6 or more (on a scale from 0 to 47, with higher scores indicating a higher risk of death after cardiac surgery) to a restrictive red-cell transfusion threshold (transfuse if hemoglobin level was <7.5 g per deciliter, starting from induction of anesthesia) or a liberal red-cell transfusion threshold (transfuse if hemoglobin level was <9.5 g per deciliter in the operating room or intensive care unit [ICU] or was <8.5 g per deciliter in the non-ICU ward). The primary composite outcome was death from any cause, myocardial infarction, stroke, or new-onset renal failure with dialysis by hospital discharge or by day 28, whichever came first. Secondary outcomes included red-cell transfusion and other clinical outcomes.
Results: The primary outcome occurred in 11.4% of the patients in the restrictive-threshold group, as compared with 12.5% of those in the liberal-threshold group (absolute risk difference, -1.11 percentage points; 95% confidence interval [CI], -2.93 to 0.72; odds ratio, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.76 to 1.07; P<0.001 for noninferiority). Mortality was 3.0% in the restrictive-threshold group and 3.6% in the liberal-threshold group (odds ratio, 0.85; 95% CI, 0.62 to 1.16). Red-cell transfusion occurred in 52.3% of the patients in the restrictive-threshold group, as compared with 72.6% of those in the liberal-threshold group (odds ratio, 0.41; 95% CI, 0.37 to 0.47). There were no significant between-group differences with regard to the other secondary outcomes.
Conclusions: In patients undergoing cardiac surgery who were at moderate-to-high risk for death, a restrictive strategy regarding red-cell transfusion was noninferior to a liberal strategy with respect to the composite outcome of death from any cause, myocardial infarction, stroke, or new-onset renal failure with dialysis, with less blood transfused. (Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and others; TRICS III ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02042898 .).