Reducing blood transfusions improves patient safety and cuts costs

Oct 07, 2010

A Loyola University Hospital study has demonstrated how the hospital has improved patient safety and cut costs by reducing the number of blood transfusions.

In 2009, the average amount of blood products transfused per patient at Loyola was 10 percent lower than it was in 2008, saving $453,355. The average amount of blood products transfused dropped from 2.03 units per patient in 2008 to 1.82 units per patient in 2009.

Results were reported at the recent annual meeting of the College of American Pathologists.

"We are giving the right blood component, in the right amounts, to the right patient at the right time, with the goal of improving patient care," said Phillip J. DeChristopher, MD, PhD, medical director of Transfusion Medicine, and Apheresis.

DeChristopher is senior author of the study. First author is Omar Habeeb, MD, a fourth-year pathology resident at Loyola.

Blood transfusions save lives, but they also carry risks. Studies during the past 10 years have found that transfusions make patients more susceptible to infections and increase the risks of poor outcomes such as longer hospital stays, cancer recurrences and multi-organ system failures. "The more you transfuse, the higher you put patients at risk for unintended consequences," DeChristopher said.

Transfusions of , platelets, plasma and other blood products were approved decades ago without randomized controlled clinical trials to establish optimal uses. Consequently, doctors sometimes order more transfusions than necessary, DeChristopher said. He noted, for example that the amount of plasma transfused per patient in the United States is two to three times higher than the amounts transfused in Canada and Europe.

Loyola launched a new initiative for blood utilization as part of its Blood Management Program. The program implemented blood-use protocols that included evidence-based indications, educational programs for doctors and nurses and oversight of the Blood Utilization Review Committee.

The initiative resulted in some patients receiving less blood or no blood at all -- without compromising patient care. For example, instead of successively administering two units of blood, a doctor might now instead order one unit and then reassess later to see if a second unit is needed.

"We don't want to expose patients to blood products unless we have to," DeChristopher said.

While patient safety is the primary goal, blood management also can result in significant cost savings. The study documented only the amount saved in purchasing blood. It did not include the larger savings involved in storing, compatibility testing, transfusing blood and treating adverse effects. "The savings we documented are just the tip of the iceberg," DeChristopher said.

Blood management also can help relieve chronic shortages in the blood supply, especially during summers and holiday seasons when donations drop.

"Blood products are a vital community resource, and we need to be good stewards," DeChristopher said. "The less blood we use, the more patients benefit, and the less strain we put on the blood supply."

Explore further: 'Ice Bucket Challenge' passes $100 mn mark

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Old blood' linked to infection

Oct 28, 2008

Blood stored for 29 days or more, nearly 2 weeks less than the current standard for blood storage, is associated with a higher infection rate in patients who received transfusions with the blood. In a new study presented ...

Transfusion expert urges wider use of filtered blood

Apr 03, 2007

Filtering white cells from donor blood before a transfusion is much safer for patients and long overdue as a national standard for all surgical procedures, according to University of Rochester researchers who present their ...

Recommended for you

Cold cash just keeps washing in from ALS challenge

Aug 28, 2014

In the couple of hours it took an official from the ALS Association to return a reporter's call for comment, the group's ubiquitous "ice bucket challenge" had brought in a few million more dollars.

Medtronic spends $350M on another European deal

Aug 27, 2014

U.S. medical device maker Medtronic is building stronger ties to Europe, a couple months after announcing a $42.9 billion acquisition that involves moving its main executive offices across the Atlantic, where it can get a ...

Mind over matter for people with disabilities

Aug 26, 2014

People with serious physical disabilities are unable to do the everyday things that most of us take for granted despite having the will – and the brainpower – to do so. This is changing thanks to European ...

User comments : 0