Crit Care. 2013 Apr 8;17(2):R66. PMID: 23566599
INTRODUCTION: The duration of red blood cell (RBC) storage before transfusion may alter RBC function and supernatant and, therefore, influence the incidence of complications or even mortality.
METHODS: A MEDLINE search from 1983 to December 2012 was performed to identify studies reporting age of transfused RBCs and mortality or morbidity in adult patients.
RESULTS: Fifty-five studies were identified; most were single-center (93%) and retrospective (64%), with only a few, small randomized studies (8 studies, 14.5%). The numbers of patients included ranged from 8 to 364,037. Morbidity outcomes included hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) length of stay (LOS), infections, multiple organ failure, microcirculatory alterations, cancer recurrence, thrombosis, bleeding, vasospasm after subarachnoid hemorrhage, and cognitive dysfunction. Overall, half of the studies showed no deleterious effects of aged compared to fresh blood on any endpoint. Eleven of 22 (50%) studies reported no increased mortality, and three of 9 (33%) showed no increased LOS with older RBCs. Ten of 18 (55%) studies showed increased infections and 8 of 12 (66%) studies showed no increased risks of organ failure with transfusion of older RBCs. The considerable heterogeneity among studies and numerous methodological flaws precluded a formal meta-analysis.
CONCLUSIONS: In this systematic review, we could find no definitive argument to support the superiority of fresh over older RBCs for transfusion.