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Nilesh Jambhekar, MD
Photo by Neil Osterweil

BOSTON—A blood management program for patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) can reduce inappropriate transfusions and costs without compromising patient outcomes, a new study suggests.

Researchers retrospectively compared outcomes before and after implementation of a patient blood management (PBM) program at a single institution.

After the program was implemented, the number of transfusions and the units transfused declined without affecting patient mortality, intensive care unit (ICU) admission rates, or other transfusion-related complications.

In addition, the program saved the hospital more than $600,000 over a year.

Nilesh Jambhekar, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, reported these results in a presentation at AABB 2018 (abstract PBM3-ST4-22*).

Study design

Dr. Jambhekar and his colleagues looked at blood product use both before and after the Mayo Clinic started a PBM program that included emphasis on AABB best practice guidelines and electronic clinical-decision support for transfusion orders.

The researchers evaluated the frequency and proportion of red blood cell (RBC) and platelet transfusions, total transfusion quantities, transfusions that occurred outside of the clinical guidelines, and the activity-based costs of transfusions.

Dr. Jambhekar acknowledged that the study relied on rigid hemoglobin and platelet thresholds when considering transfusions conducted outside of the guidelines, defined as RBCs administered for hemoglobin values greater than 7 g/dL and platelet transfusions for platelet counts greater than 10 x 109/L.

He noted, however, that the researchers conducted sensitivity analyses to account for exceptions such as patients with coronary disease or neutropenic fever.

The patient-centered outcomes the researchers evaluated included mortality, hospital and ICU admission rates, transfusion reactions, cerebrovascular and coronary ischemic events, and infections.

The study included data on 360 adults older than 18 who underwent HSCT in 2013, before the PBM program was implemented, and 368 transplanted in 2015, after implementation.

In each cohort, patients were followed out to 90 days after transplant.


The total number of platelet units transfused dropped from 1,660 pre-PBM program to 1,417 post-PBM implementation. The total number of RBC units dropped from 1,158 to 826.

The researchers also saw changes in the proportions of inappropriate (outside guidelines) transfusions between the two time periods.

In 2013, 94.2% of RBC transfusions occurred outside the guidelines, compared with 35.4% in 2015 (P<0.0001). Similarly, the proportion of inappropriate platelet transfusions declined from 73.4% to 48.7% over the same time period (P<0.0001).

In addition, all-cause mortality at 3 months was significantly lower after the PBM program was introduced. The 3-month mortality rate was 30.7% for the 2013 cohort and 20.2% for the 2015 cohort (P=0.001).

Dr. Jambhekar noted that, in a multivariable analysis accounting for baseline differences between the groups, mortality for patients treated before the PBM program remained significantly higher, with an odds ratio of 1.85 (P=0.0008).

Neither hospital nor ICU admission within 30 days differed significantly between the groups, and there were no significant between-group differences in hospital or ICU lengths of stay.

Likewise, there were no significant between-group differences in myocardial infarctions, cerebrovascular events, sepsis, and febrile or allergic transfusion reactions.

Dr. Jambhekar noted that this study was retrospective in design and therefore could not fully account for potential confounders. It’s also unclear whether the results could be generalized for adoption by other institutions.

“In general, PBM implementation is probably helpful in reducing both platelet and PRBC [packed red blood cell] utilization, but it’s not an easy thing to do,” Dr. Jambhekar said.

“It requires institutional buy-in and key players to make it happen. Ongoing PBM-related activities like surveillance, education, and clinical decision feedback are critical to maintaining success that we’ve had.”

This study was internally funded. Dr. Jambhekar reported having nothing to disclose.

*Data presented differ from the abstract.

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