Researchers examined the records of 6,000 patients who were given blood transfusions during heart-bypass or heart-valve surgery. All of the patients were treated at the Cleveland Clinic from June 30, 1998, through January 30, 2006. The study was published in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine. The conclusion: Heart surgery patients were more likely to die or suffer problems if they received transfusions of blood that is more than two weeks old rather than fresher blood.
The study underscores concerns that blood deteriorates with age and that allowing blood to be stored for six weeks may pose a safety risk, at least for certain patients. And the real scary part, the average age of the “old” blood was 20 days, not the full 42 days allowed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The average age of the fresher blood was 11 days. What would the results be if the “old” blood was the full 42 days old as allowed by the FDA?
Better ask your surgeon just how long the blood used for your transfusion has been “on the shelf.”