BACKGROUND: Recent randomized controlled trials have shown no benefit for transfusion to a hemoglobin >10 g/dL compared with lower hemoglobin thresholds in the perioperative period, even among older adults. Nevertheless, physicians may choose to transfuse older adults more liberally than younger adults. It is unclear whether older patients have higher odds than younger patients of being transfused in the perioperative period. Our objective in this study was to determine whether the odds of transfusion are higher in older patients than in younger patients in the perioperative period.
METHODS: We conducted this retrospective observational cohort study at a tertiary care academic medical center. We included adults who had undergone a surgical procedure as an inpatient at our institution from January 2010 to February 2012. The primary analysis compared the odds of transfusion for patients >65 years old with the odds of transfusion in younger patients based on multilevel multivariable logistic regression analyses including adjustment for comorbidities, surgical service, lowest in-hospital hemoglobin value, gender, and estimated surgical blood loss and accounted for clustering by the surgeon and procedure.
RESULTS: We included 20,930 patients in this analysis. In multilevel models adjusted for comorbidities, surgical service, estimated surgical blood loss, and lowest in-hospital hemoglobin value, with surgeon and procedure as random effects, patients >65 years old had 62% greater odds (odds ratio, 1.62; 95% confidence interval, 1.40–1.88; P < 0.0001) of being transfused than did younger patients. When patients were stratified by lowest in-hospital hemoglobin (7.00–7.99, 8.00–8.99, 9.00–9.99, and ≥10.00 g/dL), the odds of transfusion generally increased with each additional decade of age in every stratum, except for that containing patients in whom the lowest in-hospital hemoglobin did not decrease below 10 g/dL. When the odds of transfusion were compared between younger and older patients, significant differences were observed among surgical services (P = 0.02) but not among anesthesia specialty divisions (P = 0.9).
CONCLUSIONS: Older adults have greater odds of receiving red blood cell transfusion in the perioperative period than do younger patients, despite the lack of evidence supporting higher hemoglobin triggers in elderly patients. Further research is needed to determine whether transfusion practice in the elderly is an opportunity for education to improve blood management.