The impact of a multidisciplinary blood conservation protocol on patient outcomes and cost after cardiac surgery

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Although associations between transfusion and inferior outcomes have been documented, there is a lack of blood transfusion standardization in cardiac surgery. At the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute, a multidisciplinary, criterion-driven algorithm for transfusion management was implemented. We examined the effect of our blood conservation protocol on transfusion rates and outcomes after cardiac surgery and on stability of transfusion over time.


Patients undergoing first-time cardiac surgery from 2006 (full year before protocol) were compared with those in 2009 (after protocol) and propensity score matched to improve balance. Data were prospectively collected. Stability of transfusion incidence also was compared (2005-2006 vs 2008-2014).


After matching, 890 patients from each year were included. Use of blood products decreased from 54% in 2006 to 25% in 2009 (P < .001). Patients in 2009 had a lower incidence of postoperative renal failure (2.6% vs 4%, P = .04), reoperations for bleeding (2% vs 4%, P = .004), and readmissions at less than 30 days (6% vs 12%, P < .001). No differences were found for operative mortality, deep sternal wound infection, or permanent strokes. Patients in 2009 had greater improvement in physical (P = .001) and mental (P = .02) quality of life than patients in 2006. Reduction of blood products led to significant cost savings for packed erythrocytes (P < .001) and platelets (P < .001). After protocol implementation, transfusion incidence remained 30% or less, with less than 28% in most years.


A multidisciplinary blood conservation program can significantly control blood transfusion rates, improve outcomes, and be sustained over time. Efforts are needed to implement evidence-based protocols to standardize and decrease blood use in cardiac surgery to improve outcomes and reduce cost.

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