Preventing Mistransfusions: An Evaluation of Institutional Knowledge and a Response

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Blood product mistransfusions occur when a process error causes transfusion of incompatible blood products. These events are known sources of negative patient outcomes. One such event demonstrated an institutional knowledge gap and an opportunity to reduce this source of transfusion errors. The focus of this study was to evaluate the application of point of care cognitive aids to bridge potentially lethal knowledge gaps in blood product to patient compatibility.


A patient-donor ABO antigen compatibility grid for red blood cells (RBC) and fresh frozen plasma (FFP) was developed for creation of a cognitive aid and a blood product safety quiz. Participants included 117 registered nurses and postgraduate medical interns who were given 2 minutes to complete the quiz for establishing institutional controls. A separate group of 111 registered nurses and interns were given the same timed quiz twice, without and then with a blood product compatibility cognitive aid. An analysis of covariance was used to evaluate without cognitive aid versus with cognitive aid quiz results while taking the specialty (nurse versus interns) and baseline score into consideration. The blood bank adopted the grid as a forcing function to be completed before release of blood products.


The correct RBC answer percentage increased from 84.7% to 98.3% without and with cognitive aid (average improvement 13.6%, standard deviation [SD] = 18.3%, 95% confidence interval, 10.1%–17.1%, P < .0001, Figure 3); the correct FFP answer percentage increased from 54.2% to 99.6% without and with cognitive aid (average improvement 45.4%, SD = 20.1%, 95% confidence interval, 41.7%–49.2%, P < .0001). Participants with lower baseline RBC and FFP score showed better improvement in the correct answer percentage for RBC and FFP (P < .001), respectively.


The use of a cognitive aid for determining blood product ABO compatibility may improve performance during a time-limited test for matching correct patient and blood product ABO type. The use of the cognitive aid as a “forcing function” before the release of blood from the blood bank and before transfusion at the bedside may reduce transfusion mismatch associated with gaps in ABO compatibility knowledge.

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