Patient Care

Hemoglobin Transfusion Threshold Not Associated with Differences in Morbidity, Mortality Among Patients with Septic Shock


Clinical question: Is there a difference in 90-day mortality and other outcomes when a lower versus higher hemoglobin threshold is used for blood transfusions in ICU patients with septic shock?

Background: Patients with septic shock frequently receive blood transfusions. This often occurs in the setting of active bleeding but has also been observed in non-bleeding patients for variable hemoglobin levels. Concrete data regarding the efficacy and safety of such transfusions based on hemoglobin thresholds is lacking.

Study design: International, multi-center, stratified, parallel group randomized trial.

Setting: General ICUs in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland.

Synopsis: Researchers analyzed data from 998 ICU patients in the Transfusion Requirements in Septic Shock (TRISS) trial. Primary outcome was 90-day mortality rate. Hemoglobin levels less than 7 gm/dL and 9 gm/dL were used for lower and higher hemoglobin thresholds, respectively. The mortality rates were 43% and 45%, respectively (RR 0.94; 95% CI 0.78 -1.09; P=0.44); when adjusted for risk factors, the results were similar. Additionally, there were no differences in secondary outcomes (i.e., use of life support, development of ischemic events, and severe adverse reactions).

Hospitalists involved in managing patients with septic shock should be mindful of similar 90-day mortality and several other secondary outcomes regardless of hemoglobin threshold.

Bottom line: Ninety-day mortality and other outcomes were not affected by transfusion thresholds in ICU patients with septic shock.

Citation: Holst LB, Haase N, Wetterslev J, et al. Lower versus higher hemoglobin threshold for transfusion in septic shock. N Engl J Med. 2014;371(15):1381-1391.

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