Evidence regarding red blood cell (RBC) transfusion practices and their impact on hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) outcomes are poorly understood.
PATIENTS AND METHODS
We performed a noninferiority randomized controlled trial in four different centers that evaluated patients with hematologic malignancies requiring HCT who were randomly assigned to either a restrictive (hemoglobin [Hb] threshold < 70 g/L) or liberal (Hb threshold < 90 g/L) RBC transfusion strategy between day 0 and day 100. The noninferiority margin corresponds to a 12% absolute difference between groups in Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Bone Marrow Transplant (FACT-BMT) score relative to baseline. The primary outcome was health-related quality of life (HRQOL) measured by FACT-BMT score at day 100. Additional end points were collected: HRQOL by FACT-BMT score at baseline and at days 7, 14, 28, 60, and 100; transplantation-related mortality; length of hospital stay; intensive care unit admissions; acute graft-versus-host disease; Bearman toxicity score; sinusoidal obstruction syndrome; serious infections; WHO Bleeding Scale; transfusion requirements; and reactions to therapy.
A total of 300 patients were randomly assigned to either restrictive-strategy or liberal-strategy treatment groups between 2011 and 2016 at four Canadian adult HCT centers. After HCT, mean pre-transfusion Hb levels were 70.9 g/L in the restrictive-strategy group and 84.6 g/L in the liberal-strategy group ( P < .0001). The number of RBC units transfused was lower in the restrictive-strategy group than in the liberal-strategy group (mean, 2.73 units [standard deviation, 4.81 units] v 5.02 units [standard deviation, 6.13 units]; P = .0004). After adjusting for transfusion type and baseline FACT-BMT score, the restrictive-strategy group had a higher FACT-BMT score at day 100 (difference of 1.6 points; 95% CI, −2.5 to 5.6 points), which was noninferior compared with that of the liberal-strategy group. There were no significant differences in clinical outcomes between the transfusion strategies.
In patients undergoing HCT, the use of a restrictive RBC transfusion strategy threshold of 70 g/L was as effective as a threshold of 90 g/L and resulted in similar HRQOL and HCT outcomes with fewer transfusions.