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BACKGROUND: Plasma transfusion is increasingly performed without clear consensus on indications. We systematically reviewed the literature to summarize the available evidence regarding the benefits and harms of plasma transfusion in common clinical settings.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: We searched electronic databases from inception through August 2009. Eligible studies enrolled adult patients transfused with plasma and compared to a control group. Paired reviewers independently assessed studies for eligibility and extracted quality and outcome data.

RESULTS: Thirty-seven studies met eligibility criteria, most of which were observational. In patients undergoing massive transfusion, plasma infusion at high plasma : red blood cell ratios was associated with a significant reduction in the risk of death (odds ratio [OR], 0.38; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.24-0.60) and multiorgan failure (OR, 0.40; 95% CI, 0.26-0.60). However, the quality of this evidence was very low due to significant unexplained heterogeneity and several other biases. In a single retrospective study, plasma transfusion was associated with reduced mortality in anticoagulated patients with intracranial hemorrhage (OR, 0.29; 95% CI, 0.09-0.98). In patients undergoing surgery without massive transfusion, plasma infusion was associated with a trend toward increased mortality (OR, 1.22; 95% CI, 0.73-2.03). Plasma transfusion was associated with increased risk of developing acute lung injury (OR, 2.92; 95% CI, 1.99-4.29).

CONCLUSIONS: Very-low-quality evidence suggests that plasma infusion in the setting of massive transfusion for trauma patients may be associated with a reduction in the risk of death and multiorgan failure. A survival benefit was not demonstrated in most other transfusion populations.