Epidemiology of chronic red-cell transfusion recipients in Sweden and Denmark-a 10 year follow-up study

Vox Sang. 2018 Nov;113(8):770-778. doi: 10.1111/vox.12715. Epub 2018 Sep 30.


Background and objectives: Chronic red-cell transfusions may be an indispensable part of patient treatment and may require early intervention to avoid adverse transfusion effects. The population of chronic transfusion recipients including common diagnoses and survival remains poorly characterised. Thus, the objective was to examine the complete range of chronic transfusion recipients, including demographic and patient characteristics and survival.

Materials and methods: All patients who received their first transfusion in Sweden or Denmark from January 1, 2002 to December 31, 2010 were followed up for subsequent transfusion episodes until December 31, 2012. Data on patient characteristics at time of the first and subsequent transfusions were retrieved from the national registers. We estimated the proportion of transfused patients who experienced 20 or more red-cell transfusion episodes (with an episode defined as all transfusions received 4 days or less apart) and characterised this patient population with respect to diagnoses, demographics and survival.

Results: Among 893 117 first time red-cell transfusion recipients, 6157 (0·7%) experienced 20 or more episodes in total. The most common diagnoses among these patients were haematologic malignancies followed by non-haematologic malignancies and non-malignant blood and immune system related diseases. On average, chronically transfused patients had a median survival of less than 1 year following their 20th transfusion episode.

Conclusion: This study provides an overview of patient characteristics related to repeat red-cell transfusions and of the amount of red-cell transfusion episodes administered during a 10-year period in two countries. Patients who become chronically transfused suffer from diseases with poor prognosis.

Keywords: epidemiology; transfusion medicine (in general); transfusion strategy; transfusion therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Denmark
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / adverse effects*
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Middle Aged
  • Sweden
  • Transfusion Reaction / epidemiology*
  • Transfusion Reaction / mortality