Du Pont-Thibodeau G, Harrington K and Lacroix J Annals of Intensive Care 2014, 4:16 (2 June 2014)

Anemia and red blood cell (RBC) transfusion occur frequently in hospitalized patients with cardiac disease. In this narrative review, we report the epidemiology of anemia and RBC transfusion in hospitalized adults and children (excluding premature neonates) with cardiac disease, and on the outcome of anemic and transfused cardiac patients...

Both anemia and RBC transfusion are common in cardiac patients, and both are associated with mortality. RBC transfusion is the only way to rapidly treat severe anemia, but is not completely safe. In addition to hemoglobin (Hb) concentration, the determinant(s) that should drive a practitioner to prescribe a RBC transfusion to cardiac patients are currently unclear. In stable acyanotic cardiac patients, Hb level above 70 g/L in children and above 70 to 80 g/L in adults appears safe. In cyanotic children, Hb level above 90 g/L appears safe. The appropriate threshold Hb level for unstable cardiac patients and for children younger than 28 days is unknown. The optimal transfusion strategy in cardiac patients is not well characterized. The threshold at which the risk of anemia outweighs the risk of transfusion is not known. More studies are needed to determine when RBC transfusion is indicated in hospitalized patients with cardiac disease.

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