`Transfusions harmful for anemic heart patients`

Washington: A meta-analysis of 10 studies involving more than 203,000 heart patients suggests that major blood transfusions for those with anemia may increase their death risk.

Saurav Chatterjee, cardiology fellow at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University and his co-authors combined and analysed data from studies in which anemia patients with heart attacks either received "liberal" blood transfusions or received more restricted versions of the treatment or no transfusions at all.

"What we found is that the possibility of real harm exists with (blood) transfusion," Chatterjee said.

Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells which provide oxygen to body tissues.

"It is practiced in emergency departments all across the United States. I think it is high time that we need to answer the question definitively with a randomised trial," Chatterjee was quoted as saying by the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

The studies involved 203,000 heart patients. Liberal transfusions were defined as cases in which patients either received two units of blood or more or had a transfusion even with a hematocrit reading (a measure of red blood cell concentration) higher than 30 percent (normal is in the low 40s), according to a Brown statement.

What the researchers found after statistical adjustments to control for important medical factors was that the risk of death was 12 percent higher for people who received the liberal transfusions than those who did not.

Moreover, the group that received liberal transfusions had twice the odds of having another heart attack.