(HealthDay News) — For patients undergoing cardiac surgery, using transfused red blood cells stored for 21 days or more is as good as using blood cells stored for 10 days or less, according to research findings reported in the April 9 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Marie Steiner, M.D., a pediatric hematologist-oncologist at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis, and colleagues randomly assigned 1,098 patients undergoing cardiac surgery to receive either red blood cells stored for 10 days or less, or stored for 21 days or more. The researchers looked for changes in the Multiple Organ Dysfunction Score, which ranges from 0 to 24. The higher the score, the more severe the organ damage. Patients were followed for seven days or until they died or left the hospital. The storage time of red blood cells given to those who received the freshest ones was seven days, compared to 28 days for those who received the oldest red blood cells.
The researchers found that patients who got the newer red blood cells had Multiple Organ Dysfunction Scores that increased 8.5 points. This compared to an increase of 8.7 points for those who received the oldest red blood cells. Over seven days, 2.8 percent of patients who received the freshest red blood cells died, compared with 2.0 percent of those given the oldest red blood cells. And at 28 days after their surgeries, 4.4 percent of those given the freshest red blood cells died, compared with 5.3 percent of those given the oldest red blood cells, according to the study.
While side effects were similar between the groups, those given the older red blood cells were more likely to develop jaundice caused by hyperbilirubinemia, the investigators found.