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Blood component transfusion in critically ill patients

McIntyre, Lauralyn; Tinmouth, Alan T.; Fergusson, Dean A.

Current Opinion in Critical Care: August 2013 - Volume 19 - Issue 4 - p 326–333
doi: 10.1097/MCC.0b013e3283632e56
INTRAVENOUS FLUIDS: Edited by John Myburgh

Purpose of review This review summarizes the current evidence base for commonly transfused blood components with a particular focus on the nonacutely bleeding patient.

Recent findings There remains little definitive evidence to guide transfusion practices in the critically ill. The most rigorous evidence to guide red blood cell (RBC) transfusion practice is derived from the Transfusion in Critical Care Trial (TRICC Trial) that was published in 1999. Specific subgroups of patients may be at particular risk of the adverse effects of anemia, and require further study. There are no randomized controlled trials addressing clinically important outcomes evaluating frozen plasma, platelet thresholds, or impaired platelet activity in the critically ill.

Summary As all blood components have some level of risk, the general approach to transfusion should be one of minimization. For the nonacutely bleeding critically ill patient, a RBC transfusion trigger of 70 g/l is clinically acceptable. For patients at potentially higher risk of adverse effects related to anemia such as those with septic shock, severe and/or acute ischemic heart disease, or brain injury, a higher threshold (80–90 g/l) may be considered. There is insufficient evidence to recommend specific thresholds for transfusion of frozen plasma or platelets in the critically ill.

Department of Medicine (Critical Care), The Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Correspondence to Lauralyn McIntyre, MD, MSc, FRCPC, Department of Medicine (Critical Care), Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, The Ottawa Hospital, General Campus, 501 Smyth Road, Box 201B, Ottawa, ON K1H 8L6, Canada. Tel: +1 613 737 8899/73231; e-mail:

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