Importance: Red blood cell transfusion is a common medical intervention with benefits and harms.
Objective: To provide recommendations for use of red blood cell transfusion in adults and children.
Evidence review: Standards for trustworthy guidelines were followed, including using Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation methods, managing conflicts of interest, and making values and preferences explicit. Evidence from systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials was reviewed.
Findings: For adults, 45 randomized controlled trials with 20 599 participants compared restrictive hemoglobin-based transfusion thresholds, typically 7 to 8 g/dL, with liberal transfusion thresholds of 9 to 10 g/dL. For pediatric patients, 7 randomized controlled trials with 2730 participants compared a variety of restrictive and liberal transfusion thresholds. For most patient populations, results provided moderate quality evidence that restrictive transfusion thresholds did not adversely affect patient-important outcomes. Recommendation 1: for hospitalized adult patients who are hemodynamically stable, the international panel recommends a restrictive transfusion strategy considering transfusion when the hemoglobin concentration is less than 7 g/dL (strong recommendation, moderate certainty evidence). In accordance with the restrictive strategy threshold used in most trials, clinicians may choose a threshold of 7.5 g/dL for patients undergoing cardiac surgery and 8 g/dL for those undergoing orthopedic surgery or those with preexisting cardiovascular disease. Recommendation 2: for hospitalized adult patients with hematologic and oncologic disorders, the panel suggests a restrictive transfusion strategy considering transfusion when the hemoglobin concentration is less than 7 g/dL (conditional recommendations, low certainty evidence). Recommendation 3: for critically ill children and those at risk of critical illness who are hemodynamically stable and without a hemoglobinopathy, cyanotic cardiac condition, or severe hypoxemia, the international panel recommends a restrictive transfusion strategy considering transfusion when the hemoglobin concentration is less than 7 g/dL (strong recommendation, moderate certainty evidence). Recommendation 4: for hemodynamically stable children with congenital heart disease, the international panel suggests a transfusion threshold that is based on the cardiac abnormality and stage of surgical repair: 7 g/dL (biventricular repair), 9 g/dL (single-ventricle palliation), or 7 to 9 g/dL (uncorrected congenital heart disease) (conditional recommendation, low certainty evidence).
Conclusions and relevance: It is good practice to consider overall clinical context and alternative therapies to transfusion when making transfusion decisions about an individual patient.