Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2010; 32: 215–224
Background Acute upper gastrointestinal bleeding (AUGIB) accounts for 14% of RBC units transfused in the UK. In exsanguinating AUGIB the value of RBC transfusion is self evident, but in less severe bleeding its value is less obvious.
Aim To examine the relationship between early RBC transfusion, re-bleeding and mortality following AUGIB, which is one of the most common indications for red blood cell (RBC) transfusion.
Method Data were collected on 4441 AUGIB patients presenting to UK hospitals. The relationship between early RBC transfusion, re-bleeding and death was examined using logistic regression.
Results 44% were transfused RBCs within 12 hours of admission. In patients transfused with an initial haemoglobin of <8 g/dl, re-bleeding occurred in 23% and mortality was 13% compared with a re-bleeding rate of 15%, and mortality of 13% in those not transfused. In patients transfused with haemoglobin >8 g/dl, re-bleeding occurred in 24% and mortality was 11% compared with a re-bleeding rate of 6.7%, and mortality of 4.3% in those not transfused. After adjusting for Rockall score and initial haemoglobin, early transfusion was associated with a two-fold increased risk of re-bleeding (Odds ratio 2.26, 95% CI 1.76–2.90) and a 28% increase in mortality (Odds ratio 1.28, 95% CI 0.94–1.74).
Conclusions Early RBC transfusion in AUGIB was associated with a two-fold increased risk of re-bleeding and an increase in mortality, although the latter was not statistically significant. Although these findings could be due to residual confounding, they indicate that a randomized comparison of restrictive and liberal transfusion policies in AUGIB is urgently required.