Mortality Among Patients Undergoing Blood Transfusion in Relation to Donor Sex and Parity: A Natural Experiment

JAMA Intern Med. 2022 Jul 1;182(7):747-756. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2022.2115.


Importance: Prior evidence suggests that plasma and platelet transfusions from female and parous donors are associated with adverse clinical outcomes, which has led to the predominant use of male donors for plasma and platelets in many countries. However, studies on red blood cell transfusions have been conflicting.

Objective: To determine whether blood donor sex and parity affect mortality of patients undergoing transfusion with red blood cells.

Design, setting, and participants: This cohort study used nationwide blood bank and health register data in Sweden and involved a natural experiment created by donor sex and parity being concealed and randomly allocated. Patients were included if they were 18 to 90 years old, did not have a history of blood transfusion, and received a transfusion between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2017. Patients were followed up from their first red blood cell transfusion until death, emigration, or end of study (June 30, 2018). Data analysis was performed between June 15 and December 15, 2021.

Exposures: (1) Female vs male donors and (2) parous or nonparous female vs male donors.

Main outcomes and measures: Overall survival up to 2 years estimated using inverse probability-weighted Kaplan-Meier estimates and relative risk for additional transfusions within 24 hours.

Results: Among the 368 778 included patients (mean [SD] age, 66.3 [17.7] years; 57.3% female), 2-year survival differences comparing red blood cell transfusions from female and parous donors to male donors were -0.1% (95% CI, -1.3% to 1.1%) and 0.3% (95% CI, -0.6% to 1.2%), respectively. No statistically significant survival differences were observed regardless of patient sex or age. Median (IQR) hemoglobin counts for female donors (13.5 [13.0-14.0] g/dL) were lower than for male donors (14.9 [14.4-15.5] g/dL). Red blood cell transfusions from female donors were associated with a relative risk of 1.12 (95% CI, 1.08-1.17) for additional transfusions within 24 hours but not after adjusting for donor hemoglobin counts (relative risk, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.98-1.08). Pretransfusion patient characteristics were naturally distributed as-if randomized.

Conclusions and relevance: In this nationwide cohort study involving a natural experiment, after accounting for the lower hemoglobin values in blood from female donors, patients undergoing transfusion with blood from female or parous donors did not have higher 2-year mortality compared with recipients of blood from male donors.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Transfusion*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion*
  • Female
  • Hemoglobins
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Young Adult


  • Hemoglobins