Red blood cell transfusions-are we narrowing the evidence-practice gap? An observational study in 5 Israeli intensive care units

Jonathan Cohen, Ilya Kagan, Remos Hershcovici, Sylvianne Bursztein-De Myttenaere, Nicola Makhoul, Alexander Samkohvalov, Moshe Hersch, Sharon Einav, Vadim Berezovsky, Daniel Jorge Jakobson, Pierre Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Purpose: The aim of the study was to document transfusion practices in a cross section of general intensive care units (ICUs) in Israel and to determine whether current guidelines are being applied. Materials and Methods: This prospective study was performed in 5 general ICUs in Israel over a 3-month period. Red cell transfusion data collected on consecutive patients included the trigger, units transfused per transfusion event, and indications, categorized either to treat a specified condition for which transfusions may be beneficial (acute hemorrhage, acute myocardial ischemia, or severe sepsis) or to treat a low hemoglobin concentration. Results: Of the 238 patients studied, 50% received at least one red blood cell transfusion. The main indication for transfusion (43.7%, or 162/368 U transfused) was to treat a low hemoglobin concentration, in the absence of one of the specified conditions. Total red cell use was 3.0 ± 2.9 U per admission, and patients received a mean of 1.2 ± 0.4 U per transfusion event. The transfusion trigger for the whole group was 7.9 ± 1.1 g/dL. This did not differ significantly between the indications apart from a significantly higher trigger for patients with acute myocardial ischemia (8.8 ± 0.9 g/dL). In addition, patients with a history of heart disease had a higher trigger irrespective of the primary indication for transfusion and received significantly more units per transfusion event. Patients receiving a transfusion had significantly longer ICU stay and hospital mortality. Conclusions: Our study showed that evidence-practice gaps continue to exist, and it appears that physician behavior is mainly driven by the absolute level of hemoglobin. Educational interventions focused on these factors are required to limit the widespread and often unnecessary use of this scarce and potentially harmful resource.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106.e1-106.e6
JournalJournal of Critical Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Anemia
  • Critically ill
  • Red blood cell transfusions


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