Blood transfusions after hip surgery may be wasteful
Blood transfusions routinely given to elderly anemic patients after surgery to repair a broken hip may be unnecessary, according to a new study lead by University of Maryland researchers.
Hip fractures are not uncommon among seniors and researchers wanted to find the fastest way to get patients back into their normal lives after surgery. Doctors had assumed transfusions strengthened patients weakened by anemia and improved their chances of recovery.
They tested outcomes for 2,000 patients in the United States and Canada who were slightly anemic but had no symptoms. Half were treated right away and half were not treated until their anemia worsened. The results for each group were about the same: About 35 percent died or couldn’t walk across the room.
The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, could immediately change the way patients are treated.
“Recovery from surgery can be difficult, in particular in patients with cardiovascular disease or risk factors,” said Dr. Michael Terrin, professor of epidemiology and public health at Maryland’s School of Medicine and a study co-author. “With this study, we set out to examine whether administering blood transfusions at a moderate level of anemia would improve the chances that these particular patients would walk again. We found that for some of these patients transfusion can be an unnecessary medical procedure.”