Perioperative transfusion and long-term mortality after cardiac surgery: a meta-analysis

Gen Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2023 Jun;71(6):323-330. doi: 10.1007/s11748-023-01923-w. Epub 2023 Mar 8.


Objectives: Cardiac surgical procedures are associated with a high incidence of periprocedural blood loss and blood transfusion. Although both may be associated with a range of postoperative complications there is disagreement on the impact of blood transfusion on long-term mortality. This study aims to provide a comprehensive review of the published outcomes of perioperative blood transfusion, examined as a whole and by index procedure.

Methods: A systematic review of perioperative blood transfusion cardiac surgical patients was conducted. Outcomes related to blood transfusion were analysed in a meta-analysis and aggregate survival data were derived to examine long-term survival.

Results: Thirty-nine studies with 180,074 patients were identified, the majority (61.2%) undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery. Perioperative blood transfusions were noted in 42.2% of patients and was associated with significantly higher early mortality (OR 3.87, p < 0.001). After a median of 6.4 years (range 1-15), mortality remained significantly higher for those who received a perioperative transfusion (OR 2.01, p < 0.001). Pooled hazard ratio for long-term mortality similar for patients who underwent coronary surgery compared to isolated valve surgery. Differences in long-term mortality for all comers remained true when corrected for early mortality and when only including propensity matched studies.

Conclusions: Perioperative red blood transfusion appears to be associated with a significant reduction in long-term survival for patients after cardiac surgery. Strategies such as preoperative optimisation, intraoperative blood conservation, judicious use of postoperative transfusions, and professional development into minimally invasive techniques should be utilised where appropriate to minimise the need for perioperative transfusions.

Keywords: Blood transfusion; CABG; Death; RBC; Valve replacement.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Transfusion
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures* / methods
  • Coronary Artery Bypass / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies