Int J Gen Med 2016 3;9:133-6. Epub 2016 Jun 3.
Department of Infectious Disease, Sanford Health, Sanford USD Medical Center, Sioux Falls, SD, USA; Department of Infectious Disease, Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota, Sioux Falls, SD, USA.
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 Along with this change, mandatory provider notification for readings between 7 and 8 g/dL was rescinded.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hypothesized in the 7-8 g/dL range, which was no longer labeled critical and for which mandated physician calls were rescinded.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.