Delayed Blood Transfusions Don't Mix

Blood transfusions outcomes vary for anemia

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The standard for treating patients with anemia has long been red blood cell transfusions. That may not be the best treatment for patients hospitalized with the condition.

A recent study suggests that the age of stored blood may be a factor in finding that transfusions aren't always the best option for those with anemia.

"Ask your doctor about the most appropriate anemia treatment."

Samy Selim, a lead study author from the division of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Kentucky and the Saha Cardiovascular Research Center, and his colleagues confirmed that anemia patients have lower circulating levels of important biologically active lipid mediator, sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P), which is required for maintaining the integrity of blood vessels. S1P is carried by red blood cells.

For the study, researchers enrolled 36 patients with anemia from a single medical center who had not had a blood transfusion in the past 30 days. Of those, 13 did not receive transfusion and the remainder received blood transfusions.

Investigators recorded the number of blood units transfused and the duration of storage of each unit of blood. Blood also was taken from participants to assess plasma levels of S1P, both before and after transfusion.

Researchers found that giving transfusions to correct anemia did not always restore levels of S1P. They determined that the inability to restore S1P may be linked to the age of transfused blood. S1P levels decline when blood is stored, potentially explaining why transfusing older blood is less successful in restoring S1P levels.

Investigators suggested that future efforts focus on supplementing red blood cells with S1P to improve blood transfusion outcomes.

The study was recently published in journal Clinical Science.

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Review Date: 
October 13, 2011
Last Updated:
October 18, 2011