(HealthDay News) – For patients with severe acute gastrointestinal bleeding, a restrictive transfusion approach is safe and effective compared with a liberal approach, according to a study published in the Jan. 2 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Càndid Villanueva, MD, from the Hospital de Sant Pau in Barcelona, Spain, and colleagues conducted a randomized trial to compare the efficacy and safety of a restrictive transfusion strategy (461 patients; transfusion when hemoglobin level fell below 7g/dL) with a liberal transfusion strategy (460 patients; transfusion when hemoglobin level fell below 9g/dL) for severe acute upper gastrointestinal bleeding.

The researchers found that 51% in the restrictive-strategy group and 15% in the liberal-strategy group did not receive a transfusion (P<0.001). In the restrictive-strategy group, the probability of survival at six weeks was significantly higher (95% vs. 91%; hazard ratio for death with restrictive strategy, 0.55). Further bleeding and adverse events occurred in significantly fewer patients in the restrictive-strategy group vs. the liberal-strategy group (10% vs. 16% and 40% vs. 48%, respectively). For patients who had bleeding associated with a peptic ulcer, the probability of survival was non-significantly increased in the restrictive-strategy group. For patients assigned to the liberal-strategy group, but not the restrictive-strategy, portal-pressure gradient increased significantly within the first five days.

“Our results suggest that, in patients with acute gastrointestinal bleeding, a strategy of not performing transfusion until the hemoglobin concentration falls below 7g per deciliter is a safe and effective approach,” the authors write.

One author disclosed a financial tie to Sequana Medical.

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