Transfusion therapy after cardiac surgery is empirically guided, partly due to a lack of specific point-of-care hemostasis monitors. In a randomized, blinded, prospective trial, we studied cardiac surgical patients at moderate to high risk of transfusion. Patients were randomly assigned to either a thromboelastography (TEG)-guided transfusion algorithm (n = 53) or routine transfusion therapy (n = 52) for intervention after cardiopulmonary bypass. Coagulation tests, TEG variables, mediastinal tube drainage, and transfusions were compared at multiple time points. There were no demographic or hemostatic test result differences between groups, and all patients were given prophylactic antifibrinolytic therapy. Intraoperative transfusion rates did not differ, but there were significantly fewer postoperative and total transfusions in the TEG group. The proportion of patients receiving fresh-frozen plasma (FFP) was 4 of 53 in the TEG group compared with 16 of 52 in the control group (P < 0.002). Patients receiving platelets were 7 of 53 in the TEG group compared with 15 of 52 in the control group (P < 0.05). Patients in the TEG group also received less volume of FFP (36 +/- 142 vs 217 +/- 463 mL; P < 0.04). Mediastinal tube drainage was not statistically different 6, 12, or 24 h postoperatively. Point-of-care coagulation monitoring using TEG resulted in fewer transfusions in the postoperative period. We conclude that the reduction in transfusions may have been due to improved hemostasis in these patients who had earlier and specific identification of the hemostasis abnormality and thus received more appropriate intraoperative transfusion therapy. These data support the use of TEG in an algorithm to guide transfusion therapy in complex cardiac surgery.
Implications: Transfusion of allogeneic blood products is common during complex cardiac surgical procedures. In a prospective, randomized trial, we compared a transfusion algorithm using point-of-care coagulation testing with routine laboratory testing, and found the algorithm to be effective in reducing transfusion requirements.