Prognostic Significance of Perioperative Blood Transfusions in Resectable Thoracic Esophageal Cancer

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OBJECTIVE:The perioperative blood transfusions have been associated with tumor recurrence and decreased survival in various types of alimentary tract cancer. There exist, however, contradictory studies showing no relationship between blood transfusions and survival. For patients with esophageal cancer, only one report suggested that blood transfusions did not by itself decrease the chance of cure after esophagectomy.METHODS:Among 235 patients with primary squamous cell carcinoma of the thoracic esophagus between December 1979 and March 1998, 143 patients (60.9%) underwent esophagectomy with curative intent (RO). To exclude the effects of surgery-related postoperative complications, 14 patients who died within 90 days during the hospital stay were excluded. Thus, clinicopathological characteristics and prognostic factors were retrospectively investigated between patients with no or few transfusions (≤2 units) (n = 58), and much transfused patients (≥3 units) (n = 71).RESULTS:Sixty-three patients are alive and free of cancer, and 66 patients are dead. A total of 98 patients (76%) received blood transfusions, whereas 31 patients (24%) had no transfusion. The amount of blood transfused was 1 or 2 units in 27 patients (27.6%), 3 or 4 units in 33 (33.7%), 5 or 6 units in 20 (20.4%), and ≥7 units in 18 (18.4%). The 5-yr survival rate for patients with no or few transfusions was 69%, whereas that for much transfused patients was 31.7% (p < 0.0001). The much transfused patients had more prominent ulcerative tumor, longer time of operation, more estimated blood loss, and more marked blood vessel invasion than the group with no or few transfusions. The factors influencing survival rate were tumor location, Borrmann classification, size of tumor, depth of invasion, number of lymph node metastases, time of operation, amount of blood transfusions, lymph vessel invasion, and blood vessel invasion. Among those nine significant variables verified by univariate analysis, independent prognostic factors for survival determined by multivariate analysis were number of lymph node metastasis (0 or 1 vs≥2, p < 0.0001), amount of blood transfusions (≤2 units vs≥3 units, p < 0.0001), and blood vessel invasion (marked vs non-marked, p= 0.0207).CONCLUSIONS:There is an association between high amount of blood transfusions and decreased survival for patients with resectable esophageal cancer. To improve the prognosis, surgeons must be careful to reduce blood loss during esophagectomy with extensive lymph node dissection and subsequently must minimize blood transfusions.

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