Effect of a Restrictive vs Liberal Blood Transfusion Strategy on Major Cardiovascular Events Among Patients With Acute Myocardial Infarction and Anemia: The REALITY Randomized Clinical Trial

JAMA. 2021 Feb 9;325(6):552-560. doi: 10.1001/jama.2021.0135.


Importance: The optimal transfusion strategy in patients with acute myocardial infarction and anemia is unclear.

Objective: To determine whether a restrictive transfusion strategy would be clinically noninferior to a liberal strategy.

Design, setting, and participants: Open-label, noninferiority, randomized trial conducted in 35 hospitals in France and Spain including 668 patients with myocardial infarction and hemoglobin level between 7 and 10 g/dL. Enrollment could be considered at any time during the index admission for myocardial infarction. The first participant was enrolled in March 2016 and the last was enrolled in September 2019. The final 30-day follow-up was accrued in November 2019.

Interventions: Patients were randomly assigned to undergo a restrictive (transfusion triggered by hemoglobin ≤8; n = 342) or a liberal (transfusion triggered by hemoglobin ≤10 g/dL; n = 324) transfusion strategy.

Main outcomes and measures: The primary clinical outcome was major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE; composite of all-cause death, stroke, recurrent myocardial infarction, or emergency revascularization prompted by ischemia) at 30 days. Noninferiority required that the upper bound of the 1-sided 97.5% CI for the relative risk of the primary outcome be less than 1.25. The secondary outcomes included the individual components of the primary outcome.

Results: Among 668 patients who were randomized, 666 patients (median [interquartile range] age, 77 [69-84] years; 281 [42.2%] women) completed the 30-day follow-up, including 342 in the restrictive transfusion group (122 [35.7%] received transfusion; 342 total units of packed red blood cells transfused) and 324 in the liberal transfusion group (323 [99.7%] received transfusion; 758 total units transfused). At 30 days, MACE occurred in 36 patients (11.0% [95% CI, 7.5%-14.6%]) in the restrictive group and in 45 patients (14.0% [95% CI, 10.0%-17.9%]) in the liberal group (difference, -3.0% [95% CI, -8.4% to 2.4%]). The relative risk of the primary outcome was 0.79 (1-sided 97.5% CI, 0.00-1.19), meeting the prespecified noninferiority criterion. In the restrictive vs liberal group, all-cause death occurred in 5.6% vs 7.7% of patients, recurrent myocardial infarction occurred in 2.1% vs 3.1%, emergency revascularization prompted by ischemia occurred in 1.5% vs 1.9%, and nonfatal ischemic stroke occurred in 0.6% of patients in both groups.

Conclusions and relevance: Among patients with acute myocardial infarction and anemia, a restrictive compared with a liberal transfusion strategy resulted in a noninferior rate of MACE after 30 days. However, the CI included what may be a clinically important harm.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02648113.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Equivalence Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anemia / complications
  • Anemia / therapy*
  • Blood Transfusion*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Myocardial Infarction / blood
  • Myocardial Infarction / complications
  • Myocardial Infarction / therapy*


  • Hemoglobins

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02648113