Demonstration of a U.S. nationwide reduction in transfusion in general surgery and a review of published transfusion reduction methodologies

Courtney M. Hamilton, Daniel L. Davenport, Andrew C. Bernard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Red blood cell transfusions in surgical procedures can be lifesaving. However, recent studies show transfusions are associated with a dose-dependent increase in postoperative morbidity and mortality; hospitals and physicians have attempted to reduce them. We sought to determine the success of these efforts and review and summarize published reduction methods employed. Study Design/Methods: An analysis of transfusion data from ACS-NSQIP public use files of general surgical procedures for 2012 and 2018; a retrospective review of the literature surrounding general surgical transfusion reduction from 2008 to 2018. Results: The rate of general surgical transfusion in the NSQIP dataset decreased from 5.5% in 2012 to 4.0% in 2018, a 27% relative reduction in transfusion. After extensive multivariable adjustment for patient risk and operative complexity, this effect remained (Odds ratio 0.65, 95% CI 0.63–0.67, p <.001). Furthermore, there was a positive correlation between specific procedure decreases in transfusion and decreases in 30-day morbidity (rho =0.41, p =.003) and mortality (rho = 0.37, p =.007). There were 866 published studies matching our search term “red blood cell transfusion reduction.” Forty-four were relevant to general surgery. Seven dominant strategies for transfusion reduction by descending frequency of report included restrictive transfusion thresholds, management of preoperative anemia, perioperative interventions, educational programs, electronic clinical decision support, waste reduction, and audits of transfusion practices. Conclusion: Our study demonstrates a 27% decrease in general surgery transfusion between 2012 and 2018 with associated reductions in morbidity and mortality, suggesting published employed strategies have been successful and safely implemented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3119-3128
Number of pages10
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 AABB.


  • red blood cells
  • retrospective
  • transfusion
  • transfusion reduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Hematology


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