Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Fresh Blood No Better for Transfusions, Canadian-Led Study Shows

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Fresh Blood No Better for Transfusions, Canadian-Led Study Shows

Article excerpt

Fresh blood no better for transfusions


TORONTO - Freshly donated blood is not better than older blood when it is transfused into severely ill patients, a new Canadian-led study reports.

The findings will be a relief to blood collection agencies, which have faced calls to shorten the length of time blood can be stored before it is transfused. In fact, Canadian Blood Services said they were very pleased with the outcome.

"The study supports our current inventory management practices for helping patients receiving transfusions in the intensive care setting," said Dr. Dana Devine, the agency's chief medical and scientific officer.

Currently blood can be stored for up to 42 days, though most transfusions involve blood that is about three weeks old. But there has been a growing belief that fresher is better.

"When you look at all that evidence, over time it was building pressure on the blood system that fresh was better, that we need to perhaps change policy," said one of the lead authors, Dean Fergusson, a scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

Why? For one thing, blood changes as it ages; those changes can be seen under a microscope. The assumption has been that those changes would have an impact. Some animal studies and even observational studies in people have suggested that is likely true.

In fact, a large observational study published in 2008 in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested cardiac surgery patients who were given blood that had been stored for more than two weeks had a 30 per cent increased risk of dying after surgery compared to those who received blood that had been stored for less than two weeks.

But observational studies, which try to tease out patterns by watching what happens when people do or take certain things, can't prove one thing causes another. That takes a randomized controlled trial, which is what Fergusson and his colleagues conducted.

Their work involved nearly 2,500 patients in intensive care units in Canada, Britain, France, the Netherlands and Belgium. …

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