Recommendations on RBC Transfusion in Infants and Children With Acquired and Congenital Heart Disease From the Pediatric Critical Care Transfusion and Anemia Expertise Initiative

Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2018 Sep;19(9S Suppl 1):S137-S148. doi: 10.1097/PCC.0000000000001603.


Objectives: To present the recommendations and supporting literature for RBC transfusions in critically ill children with acquired and congenital heart disease developed by the Pediatric Critical Care Transfusion and Anemia Expertise Initiative.

Design: Consensus conference series of 38 international, multidisciplinary experts in RBC transfusion management of critically ill children.

Methods: Experts developed evidence-based and, when evidence was lacking, expert-based clinical recommendations and research priorities for RBC transfusions in critically ill children. The cardiac disease subgroup included three experts. Electronic searches were conducted using PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane Library databases from 1980 to May 2017. Agreement was obtained using the Research and Development/UCLA appropriateness method. Results were summarized using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation method.

Results: Twenty-one recommendations were developed and reached agreement. For children with myocardial dysfunction and/or pulmonary hypertension, there is no evidence that transfusion greater than hemoglobin of 10 g/dL is beneficial. For children with uncorrected heart disease, we recommended maintaining hemoglobin greater than 7-9.0 g/dL depending upon their cardiopulmonary reserve. For stable children undergoing biventricular repairs, we recommend not transfusing if the hemoglobin is greater than 7.0 g/dL. For infants undergoing staged palliative procedures with stable hemodynamics, we recommend avoiding transfusions solely based upon hemoglobin, if hemoglobin is greater than 9.0 g/dL. We recommend intraoperative and postoperative blood conservation measures. There are insufficient data supporting shorter storage duration RBCs. The risks and benefits of RBC transfusions in children with cardiac disease requires further study.

Conclusions: We present RBC transfusion management recommendations for the critically ill child with cardiac disease. Clinical recommendations emphasize relevant hemoglobin thresholds, and research recommendations emphasize need for further understanding of physiologic and hemoglobin thresholds and alternatives to RBC transfusion in subpopulations lacking pediatric literature.

Publication types

  • Consensus Development Conference
  • Practice Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Anemia / complications
  • Anemia / therapy
  • Blood Gas Analysis
  • Cardiovascular Surgical Procedures / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Critical Care / standards
  • Critical Illness / therapy
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / adverse effects*
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / methods
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / methods
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / blood
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / complications
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / therapy*
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn


  • Hemoglobins