Blood transfusion for upper gastrointestinal bleeding: is less more again?

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Blood transfusion for upper gastrointestinal bleeding: is less more again?

Crit Care. 2013 Sep 24;17(5):325

Authors: Al-Jaghbeer M, Yende S

BACKGROUND: The hemoglobin threshold for transfusion of red blood cells in patients with acute gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is controversial. We compared the efficacy and safety of a restrictive transfusion strategy with those of a liberal transfusion strategy.
METHODS: Objective: The objective was to prove that the restrictive threshold for red blood cell transfusion in patients with acute upper GI bleeding (UGIB) was safer and more effective than a liberal transfusion strategy.Design: A single-center, randomized controlled trial was conducted.Setting: Patients with GI bleeding were admitted to the de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau hospital in Barcelona, Spain.Subjects: The subjects were adult intensive care unit patients admitted with high clinical suspicion of UGIB (hematomemesis, melena, or both). Patients were excluded if they had massive exsanguinating bleeding, acute coronary syndrome, symptomatic peripheral vascular disease, stroke/transient ischemic attack, transfusion within the previous 90 days, recent trauma or surgery, lower GI bleeding, or a clinical Rockall score of 0 with hemoglobin higher than 12 g/dL.Intervention: A total of 921 patients with severe acute UGIB were enrolled. Of these, 461 were randomly assigned to a restrictive strategy (transfusion when the hemoglobin level fell to below 7 g/dL) and 460 to a liberal strategy (transfusion when the hemoglobin fell to below 9 g/dL). Random assignment was stratified according to the presence or absence of liver cirrhosis.Outcomes: The primary outcome was rate of death from any cause within the first 45 days. Secondary outcomes were further bleeding, defined as hematemesis or melena with hemodynamic instability or hemoglobin decrease of 2 g/dL or more, and in-hospital complications.
RESULTS: In total, 225 patients assigned to the restrictive strategy (51%) and 65 assigned to the liberal strategy (15%) did not receive transfusions (P <0.001). The probability of survival at 6 weeks was higher in the restrictive-strategy group than in the liberal-strategy group (95% versus 91%; hazard ratio (HR) for death with restrictive strategy, 0.55; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.33 to 0.92; P = 0.02). Further bleeding occurred in 10% of the patients in the restrictive-strategy group and in 16% of the patients in the liberal-strategy group (P = 0.01), and adverse events occurred in 40% and 48%, respectively (P = 0.02). The probability of survival was slightly higher with the restrictive strategy than with the liberal strategy in the subgroup of patients who had bleeding associated with a peptic ulcer (HR 0.70, 95% CI 0.26 to 1.25) and was significantly higher in the subgroup of patients with cirrhosis and Child-Pugh class A or B disease (HR 0.30, 95% CI 0.11 to 0.85) but not in those with cirrhosis and Child-Pugh class C disease (HR 1.04, 95% CI 0.45 to 2.37). Within the first 5 days, the portal-pressure gradient increased significantly in patients assigned to the liberal strategy (P = 0.03) but not in those assigned to the restrictive strategy.
CONCLUSIONS: Compared with a liberal transfusion strategy, a restrictive strategy significantly improved outcomes in patients with acute UGIB.

PMID: 24063362 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

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