A Pilot Trial Evaluating the Clinical Effects of Prolonged Storage of Red Cells
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The clinical consequences of prolonged storage of red cells have not been established. In this pilot study, we evaluated whether it would be feasible to provide a continuous supply of red cells stored <8 days. In addition, we examined the potential benefits attributed to "fresh" as compared to standard red cells in 66 critically ill and cardiac surgical patients. Nine patients were issued red cells but were not transfused. From the 57 remaining patients, the number of units transfused averaged 5.5 +/- 8.43 red cell units in the experimental group compared to 3.3 +/- 3.27 red cell units in the standard group (P = 0.25). The median storage time was 4 days in the experimental group compared to 19 days in the standard group (difference of 15 days; interquartile range of 12-16 days; P < 0.001). Overall, 73% of patients received red cells with storage times that corresponded to the treatment allocation more than 90% of the time. The group receiving red cells <8 days old tended to be older on average (68 +/- 8.54 yr versus 63 +/- 15.30 yr; P = 0.13) and have more comorbid illnesses (85% versus 65%; P = 0.09). In total, 27% of patients in the experimental group died or had a life-threatening complication as compared to 13% in the standard group (P = 0.31). There were no differences in prolonged respiratory, cardiovascular, or renal support after randomization (P > 0.05). A large clinical trial comparing red cell storage times is feasible and warranted given the limited available evidence.
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