No change to blood distribution is necessary

By Nardo van der Meer | March 31, 2015 | 1 min read

The blood distribution process does not need to be adjusted. A large international study shows that there is no benefit to using fresh blood instead of stored blood for blood transfusions in critically ill patients.

Image: © Nationale Beeldbank

“If the conclusion had been different, it would have shown that blood should be stored for much less than the current maximum period of 35 days. That would have had consequences for the organization and processes at blood bank Sanquin that distributes blood in the Netherlands. It would probably have led to an even higher cost of blood - which is already the highest in Europe,” says intensivist and Professor of Healthcare Management Nardo van der Meer. Van der Meer led the study that included seven participating Dutch hospitals. The patients there were followed for three months.

It is the largest international, randomized study conducted to date, in which seven hospitals and Sanquin Blood Supply participated in the Netherlands. The results have been published in The New England Journal of Medicine. For years there has been controversy about a possible advantage of fresh blood. This study shows that fresh red blood cells do not increase survival rates. The point of contention thus seems removed. The result means that there is no reason for clinicians to necessarily order fresh red blood cells, and for the blood bank this means that there is no need to shorten the shelf life of their blood.

The Canada-initiated study was conducted among 2,430 seriously ill patients in need of blood transfusions in the intensive care units of seven Dutch hospitals. The patients were divided into two equal groups. One half was given blood that was donated no more than seven days earlier. For the other half the usual hospital practice was followed: the oldest blood bag was used first. On average, this blood had been stored for 22 days, with a maximum of 35 days. For this study, Sanquin provided the hospital twice a week with blood that was two to three days old. The study was conducted double blind - the collection date was not visible to the practitioners.

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