Optimising the use of blood has become a core task of transfusion medicine. Because no general guidelines are available in Switzerland, we analysed the effects of the introduction of a guideline on red blood cell (RBC) transfusion for elective orthopaedic surgery.
Prospective, multicentre, before-and-after study comparing the use of RBCs in adult elective hip or knee replacement before and after the implementation of a guideline in 10 Swiss hospitals, developed together with all participants.
We included 2,134 patients, 1,238 in 7 months before, 896 in 6 months after intervention. 57 (34 or 2.7% before, 23 or 2.6% after) were lost before follow-up visit. The mean number of transfused RBC units decreased from 0.5 to 0.4 per patient (0.1, 95% CI 0.08–0.2; p = 0.014), the proportion of transfused patients from 20.9% to 16.9% (4%, 95% C.I. 0.7–7.4%; p = 0.02), and the pre-transfusion haemoglobin from 82.6 to 78.2 g/l (4.4 g/l, 95% C. I. 2.15–6.62 g/l, p < 0.001). We did not observe any statistically significant changes in in-hospital mortality (0.4% vs. 0%) and morbidity (4.1% vs. 4.0%), median hospital length of stay (9 vs. 9 days), follow-up mortality (0.4% vs. 0.2%) and follow-up morbidity (6.9% vs. 6.0%).
The introduction of a simple transfusion guideline reduces and standardises the use of RBCs by decreasing the haemoglobin transfusion trigger, without negative effects on the patient outcome. Local support, training, and monitoring of the effects are requirements for programmes optimising the use of blood.