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Blood transfusions and infection after cardiac surgeryTransfusions of red blood cells during and after cardiac surgery raise the risk of infections up to 65 days later, according to a study published in June's Annals of Thoracic Surgery. The investigators tracked 5,158 cardiac surgery patients in the United States and Canada. About half (48%) received red cells and a third (31%) received platelets. Overall, 5.8% of patients experienced a serious infection. Each unit of red blood cells raised the infection risk 29%, whereas platelet transfusions lowered the risk. The volumes of red blood cells transfused were greatest in patients undergoing transplantation, left ventricular assist device implantation, and thoracic aortic procedures. The authors suggest using alternatives to red blood cell transfusion, such as cell salvage or small priming volume cardiopulmonary bypass circuits, to limit infections after cardiac surgery.