Promoting a Restrictive Intraoperative Transfusion Strategy: The Influence of a Transfusion Guideline and a Novel Software Tool

Anesth Analg. 2018 Sep;127(3):744-752. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000002704.


Background: The effect of neither transfusion guidelines nor decision support tools on intraoperative transfusion has been previously evaluated. The University of Michigan introduced a transfusion guideline in 2009, and in 2011, the Department of Anesthesiology developed a transfusion decision support tool. The primary aim of this study was to assess the associations of the transfusion guideline and the optional use of the software transfusion tool with intraoperative behaviors; pretransfusion hematocrit assessment (whether or not a hematocrit was checked before each red cell unit) and restrictive red cell use (withholding transfusion unless the hematocrit was ≤21%).

Methods: This was a before-after retrospective study without a concurrent control group of patients transfused 1-3 units of red cells intraoperatively. Three phases were studied to provide data both before and after the implementation of the transfusion guideline and the intraoperative software tool. Within each phase, trends of checking hematocrits before transfusion and restrictive transfusion were charted against time. F tests were used to measure differences of slopes. The difference between means of each phase was measured using Mann-Whitney U tests. Independent associations were measured using mixed-effects multivariable logistic regression. A secondary outcome analysis was conducted for 30-day mortality, myocardial infarction, renal injury, and their combination.

Results: The transfusion guideline was associated with increased pretransfusion hematocrit evaluation (67.4%, standard deviation [SD] 3.9 vs 76.5%, SD 2.7; P < .001) and restrictive transfusion practice (14.0%, SD 7.4 vs 33.3%, SD 4.4; P = .001). After adjustment for confounders, the guideline phase was independently associated with increased hematocrit checking (odds ratio, 1.72; 95% confidence interval, 1.46-2.03; P < .001) and restrictive red cell transfusion (odds ratio, 2.95; 95% confidence interval, 2.46-3.54; P < .001). The software tool was not associated with either transfusion behavior. There was no significant change in the rate of renal injury (16.06%), myocardial injury (4.93%), 30-day mortality (5.47%), or a composite (21.90%).

Conclusions: The introduction of a transfusion guideline was independently associated with increased intraoperative pretransfusion hematocrit assessment and restrictive transfusion. The use of a software tool did not further influence either behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / methods
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / standards*
  • Female
  • Hematocrit / methods
  • Hematocrit / standards
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Care / methods
  • Intraoperative Care / standards*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Software / standards*