Open Access Research article

Perioperative blood transfusions and survival in patients with non-small cell lung cancer: a retrospective study

Juan P Cata1*, Varun Chukka1, Hao Wang1, Lei Feng2, Vijaya Gottumukkala1, Fernando Martinez3 and Ara A Vaporciyan4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, The University of Texas - MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd, Houston, TX, USA

2 Department of Biostatistics, The University of Texas - MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA

3 Department of Laboratory Medicine, The University of Texas - MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA

4 Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, The University of Texas - MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA

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BMC Anesthesiology 2013, 13:42  doi:10.1186/1471-2253-13-42

Published: 15 November 2013



Perioperative blood transfusions have been associated with poor clinical outcomes in the context of oncological surgery. Current literature is inconclusive whether blood transfusions are linked to shorter recurrence free and overall survival after lung cancer surgery. We hypothesize that blood transfusions in patients undergoing surgery for non-small cell lung cancer are associated with poor oncological survival.


After IRB approval, perioperative data from 636 patients who underwent lung cancer surgery was collected. Patients were evaluated for time to tumor recurrence and overall survival.


60 patients were transfused and 576 subjects were not. Patients who received transfusion were more likely to have more advanced disease (p = 0.018), and preoperative low hemoglobin concentrations (p < 0.0001) compared to non-transfused patients. In the multivariable Cox regression analysis, blood transfusion was associated with a significant reduction in recurrence free survival (p = 0.025), HR: 1.55 (95% CI: 1.06-2.27) and overall survival (p = 0.0002) HR: 2.04 (95% CI: 1.41-2.97). However, analysis after propensity score matching between the two groups revealed that the effect of blood transfusion was significant for reduction in overall survival (p = 0.0356), HR: 1.838 (95% CI: 1.04-3.22) but not for recurrence free survival (p = 0.1460), HR: 1.493 (95% CI: 0.87-2.56).


Perioperative administration of red blood cells appears be associated with a decreased overall survival but not recurrence free survival after lung cancer surgery. Our study has the limitations of a retrospective review. Hence, our results should be confirmed by a prospective randomized control trial.