Which groups of patients are transfused? A study of red cell usage in London and southeast England

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Background and Objectives

There are few published data on the use of red blood cells (RBC) by specialty in the United Kingdom. The aim of this survey was to identify major specialty users of blood to target for audit of transfusion practice with a view to minimizing inappropriate use and to support planning of blood supply needs for the future.

Materials and Methods

Data were collected retrospectively of RBC units transfused at 62 hospitals/trusts in London and southeast England between April 1997 and March 1998.


A total of 594 810 transfused RBC units were successfully traced to their respective clinical specialties, representing 91·9% of all RBC units issued to the study hospitals. Of the RBC units transfused, 51·2% were transfused in surgical, 36·0% in medical and 12·8% in ‘combined’ specialties.


This large study has accurately documented the clinical disciplines that are significant users of RBCs in our service area. It has heightened general understanding of RBC usage within hospitals. It has also raised questions on future strategies for reducing allogeneic blood transfusion that will be important if anticipated major reductions in blood supply occur in the near future.

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