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Decreasing the critical value of hemoglobin required for physician notification reduces the rate of blood transfusions

Authors Larson E, Thompson P, Anderson Z, Anderson K, Lupu R, Tigner V, Hoffman W

Received 12 September 2015

Accepted for publication 11 February 2016

Published 3 June 2016 Volume 2016:9 Pages 133—136


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Eric A Larson,1 Paul A Thompson,1,2 Zachary K Anderson,3 Keith A Anderson,4 Roxana A Lupu,1 Vicki Tigner,5 Wendell W Hoffman6,7

1Department of Internal Medicine, 2Department of Pediatrics, Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota, Sioux Falls, SD, 3Department of Internal Medicine, Fairview Health Services, Edina, MN, 4Department of Laboratory Medicine, Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota, 5Medical Staff Services, 6Department of Infectious Disease, Sanford Health, Sanford USD Medical Center, 7Department of Infectious Disease, Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota, Sioux Falls, SD, USA

Abstract: Red blood cell transfusions have been cited as one of the most overused therapeutic interventions in the USA. Excessively aggressive transfusion practices may be driven by mandatory physician notification of critical hemoglobin values that do not generally require transfusion. We examined the effect of decreasing the critical value of hemoglobin from 8 to 7 g/dL at our institution. Along with this change, mandatory provider notification for readings between 7 and 8 g/dL was rescinded. Transfusion rates were compared retrospectively during paired 5-month periods for patients presenting in three key hemoglobin ranges (6.00–6.99, 7.00–7.99, and 8.00–8.99 g/dL). A change in transfusion practices was hypothesized in the 7–8 g/dL range, which was no longer labeled critical and for which mandated physician calls were rescinded. Transfusion rates showed a statistically significant 8% decrease (P≤0.0001) during the 5-month period post change in our transfusion practices. This decrease in the 7.00–7.99 g/dL range was significantly greater than the 2% decrease observed in either the 6–6.99 g/dL (P=0.0017) or 8–8.99 g/dL (P≤0.0001) range. Cost savings of up to $700,000/year were extrapolated from our results showing 491 fewer units of red blood cells transfused during the 5-month post change. These cost savings do not take into account the additional impact of complications associated with blood transfusions.

Keywords: transfusion, critical value, hemoglobin, cost savings, red blood cells, transfusion complications

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