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Open Access Commentary

Does blood transfusion harm cardiac surgery patients?

Gavin J Murphy

Author Affiliations

Bristol Heart Institute, University of Bristol, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Bristol, UK

BMC Medicine 2009, 7:38  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-7-38

Published: 31 July 2009


Over recent years there has been a substantial body of evidence demonstrating strong associations between transfusion and adverse outcomes, including myocardial, neurological and renal injury, in a range of clinical settings where transfusion is administered for reasons other than life-threatening bleeding. The strength of these associations across a range of clinical settings suggests that confounding and bias, the chief limitations of all observational studies, are unlikely to account for all of these observations. Given the wide range in transfusion rates in cardiac centres, with up to 100% of patients in some centres exposed to allogenic blood components, this evidence, albeit circumstantial, presents a strong argument for prospective randomised trials to attempt to determine, firstly, if transfusion causes adverse outcomes, and secondly, in which patient groups does the benefit of transfusion outweigh these risks? These issues are discussed in the context of an article published this month in BMC Medicine.