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Literature since 2006 was reviewed to identify the harms and costs of red blood cell (RBC) transfusion.Several studies, in people having various cardiac surgery operations, found strong associations of RBC transfusion with mortality and postoperative morbidity. The effect on mortality was strongest close to the time of operation but extended to 5 years. Morbidity outcomes included serious wound and systemic infections, renal failure, prolonged ventilation, low cardiac index, myocardial infarction, and stroke. RBC transfusion was also strongly associated with increased cardiac intensive care unit and ward postoperative stay, and hence, increased cost of admission; available studies did not consider all resources used and the associated costs.The harms of RBC transfusion have potentially serious and long-term consequences for patients and are costly for health services. This evidence should shift clinicians' equipoise towards more restrictive transfusion practice. The immediate aim should be to avoid transfusing a small number of RBC units for general malaise attributed to anaemia, a practice that appears to occur in about 50% of transfused patients. Randomized trials comparing restrictive and liberal transfusion triggers are urgently needed to directly compare the benefits and harms from RBC transfusion.