Treatments to Avoid During a Heart Attack

Heart attack patients treated with blood transfusions have more negative health outcomes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) You've no doubt seen ads or been solicited to give blood. There's a good reason. Donated blood for transfusion is an important, life-saving resource that must be used judiciously. When should doctors decide to give it? 

A recent study suggests giving patients blood transfusions during a heart attack can be harmful. This is a concern because there are not solid recommendations in place for doctors to get guidance.

"Learn the warning signs of heart attacks. "

Dr. Saurav Chatterjee, of Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and colleagues led the study to examine the outcomes of patients receiving blood transfusions during a heart attack.

The researchers used 10 published studies that included 203,000 patients. They looked at patients that received blood transfusions during a heart attack and those that did not. Also included was the type of transfusion, liberal versus restricted, which means more versus less blood.

Overall, the use of blood transfusions led to a 18.2 percent death rate, compared to 10.2 percent for the group not receiving transfusions.

Also measured was the relative risk of having another heart attack after receiving a blood transfusion or not. The measurement of relative risk is used to compare risks between people receiving the treatment versus those who do not.

Results showed a significantly higher risk ratio (2.04), of having another heart attack in the group that received transfusions. A risk ratio over 1 means it is more likely to happen in the treatment versus non-treatment group.

Authors noted several limitations in their study. Only one of the examined studies was a clinical trial; the others were observational and the reliability of the data is an issue. Also, specific medical patient data, such as hemoglobin levels, was not always included in the study. Having this type of data could have led to more health outcome comparisons.

The study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. It was supported by Brown University Department of Medicine Division of Cardiology and the Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Dr. Saurav Chatterjee and co-authors disclosed no conflict of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 2, 2013
Last Updated:
January 6, 2013