Objective: Increasing evidence, including publication of the Transfusion Requirements in Critical Care trial in 1999, supports a lower hemoglobin threshold for RBC transfusion in ICU patients. However, little is known regarding the influence of this evidence on clinical practice over time in a large population-based cohort.
Design: Retrospective population-based cohort study.
Setting: Thirty-five Maryland hospitals.
Patients: Seventy-three thousand three hundred eighty-five nonsurgical adults with an ICU stay greater than 1 day between 1994 and 2007.
Measurements and Main Results: The unadjusted odds of patients receiving an RBC transfusion increased from 7.9% during the pre-Transfusion Requirements in Critical Care baseline period (1994–1998) to 14.7% during the post-Transfusion Requirements in Critical Care period (1999–2007). A logistic regression model, including 40 relevant patient and hospital characteristics, compared the annual trend in the adjusted odds of RBC transfusion during the pre- versus post-Transfusion Requirements in Critical Care periods. During the pre-Transfusion Requirements in Critical Care period, the trend in the adjusted odds of RBC transfusion did not differ between hospitals averaging > 200 annual ICU discharges and hospitals averaging ≤ 200 annual ICU discharges (odds ratio, 1.07 [95% CI, 1.01–1.13] annually and 1.03 [95% CI, 0.99–1.07] annually, respectively; p = 0.401). However, during the post-Transfusion Requirements in Critical Care period, the adjusted odds of RBC transfusion decreased over time in higher ICU volume hospitals (odds ratio, 0.96 [95% CI, 0.93–0.98] annually) but continued to increase in lower ICU volume hospitals (odds ratio, 1.10 [95% CI, 1.08–1.13] annually), p < 0.001.
Conclusions: In this population-based cohort of ICU patients, the unadjusted odds of RBC transfusion increased in both higher and lower ICU volume hospitals both before and after Transfusion Requirements in Critical Care publication. After adjusting for relevant characteristics, the odds continued to increase in lower ICU volume hospitals in the post-Transfusion Requirements in Critical Care period, but it decreased in higher ICU volume hospitals. This suggests that evidence supporting restrictive RBC transfusion thresholds may not be uniformly translated into practice in different hospital settings.