Red cell (RBC) transfusions are a potentially life-saving therapy employed during the care of many critically ill patients to replace losses in hemoglobin to maintain oxygen delivery to vital organs. During storage, RBCs undergo a series of biochemical and biomechanical changes that reduce their survival and function. Additionally, accumulation of other biologic by-products of RBC preservation may be detrimental to recipients of blood transfusions. Laboratory studies and an increasing number of observational studies have raised the possibility that prolonged RBC storage adversely affects clinical outcomes. In this article, the laboratory and animal experiments evaluating changes to RBCs during prolonged storage are reviewed. Subsequently, the clinical studies that have evaluated the clinical consequences of prolonged RBC storage are reviewed. These data suggest a possible detrimental clinical effect associated with the transfusion of stored RBCs; randomized clinical trials further evaluating the clinical consequences of transfusing older stored RBCs are required.