Septic patients are often anemic, requiring red blood cell (RBC) transfusions. However, RBC transfusions are associated with organ injury. The mechanisms of RBC-induced organ injury are unknown, but increased clearance of donor RBCs from the circulation with trapping in the organs could play a role. We hypothesized that washing of RBCs prior to transfusion may reduce clearance and trapping of donor cells and thereby reduce organ injury.
Sprague-Dawley rats were inoculated intratracheally with 107 colony-forming units (CFU) of Streptococcus pneumoniae or vehicle as a control and transfused with either a washed or standard (non-washed) biotinylated RBC transfusion from syngeneic rats. Controls received saline. Blood samples were taken directly after transfusion and at 24 h to calculate the 24 h post transfusion recovery (PTR). After sacrifice, flow cytometry was used to detect donor RBCs in organs and blood. The organs were histologically scored by a pathologist and CFUs in the lung and blood were counted.
The 24h-PTR was similar between healthy and pneumoseptic rats after a standard transfusion. In healthy rats, a washed transfusion resulted in a higher PTR and less accumulation of donor RBCs in the organs compared with a standard transfusion. However, during pneumonia, this effect of washing was not seen. Transfusion did not further augment lung injury induced by pneumonia, but washing decreased bacterial outgrowth in the lungs associated with reduced lung injury.
In healthy recipients, washing increased 24h-PTR of donor RBCs and decreased trapping in organs. In pneumoseptic rats, washing reduced bacterial outgrowth and lung injury, but did not improve PTR.