Red Blood Cell Transfusion Risks in Patients with End-Stage Renal Disease

Authors

  • Yvette C. Tanhehco,

    1. Division of Laboratory Medicine, Department of Pathology, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jeffrey S. Berns

    1. Renal, Electrolyte, and Hypertension Division, Department of Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Search for more papers by this author

Address correspondence to: Jeffrey S. Berns, M.D., Renal, Electrolyte, and Hypertension Division, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 3400 Spruce Street, 1 Founders Pavilion, Philadelphia, PA 19104, Tel.: (215) 662-7934, Fax: (215) 615-1688, or e-mail: bernsj@uphs.upenn.edu.

Abstract

Prior to the introduction of recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO), red blood cell (RBC) transfusions were frequently required when iron and anabolic steroids failed to improve the clinical symptoms of anemia associated with hemoglobin (Hb) levels that were commonly less than 7 g/dl. After the approval of EPO in the United States in 1989, the Hb levels of patients on hemodialysis dramatically improved and the need for RBC transfusions decreased significantly. The need for RBC transfusion remains for patients who require an immediate increase in their RBC mass due to symptomatic anemia and is likely to increase due to changes in the management of anemia in dialysis patients resulting from clinical trials data, regulatory changes, and new reimbursement policies for EPO. The safety of the blood supply has greatly improved over the last few decades, and the risk of transfusion-transmitted diseases has now been dramatically reduced. Noninfectious complications of transfusion currently cause the majority of morbidity and mortality associated with transfusion in the United States. Transfusion also brings a risk of alloimmunization, a particular concern for dialysis patients waiting for kidney transplantation. Knowledge of the risks of RBC transfusions will help clinicians better assess the risks and benefits of transfusing patients with ESRD. This article reviews the modern day infectious and noninfectious risks of allogeneic RBC transfusions.

Ancillary