Less Is More: Results of a Statewide Analysis of the Impact of Blood Transfusion on Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting Outcomes

on behalf of the, Investigators for the Maryland Cardiac Surgery Quality Initiative

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Background Debate persists over the association between blood transfusions, especially those considered discretionary, and outcomes after cardiac operations. Using data from the Maryland Cardiac Surgery Quality Initiative, we sought to determine whether outcomes differed among coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) patients receiving 1 U of red blood cells (RBCs) vs none. Methods We used a statewide database to review patients who underwent isolated CABG from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2016, across 10 Maryland cardiac surgery centers. We included patients who received 1 U or fewer of RBCs from the time of the operation through discharge. Propensity scoring, using 20 variables to control for treatment effect, was performed among patients who did and did not receive a transfusion. These two groups were matched 1:1 to assess for differences in our primary outcomes: operative death, prolonged postoperative length of stay (>14 days), and a composite postoperative respiratory complication of pneumonia or reintubation, or both. Results Of 10,877 patients who underwent CABG, 6,124 (56%) received no RBCs (group 1) during their operative hospitalization, and 981 (9.0%) received 1 U of RBCs (group 2), including 345 of 981 patients (35%) who received a transfusion intraoperatively. Propensity score matching generated 937 well-matched pairs. Compared with group 2, propensity-matched analysis revealed significantly greater 30-day survival in group 1 (99% vs 98%, p = 0.02) and reduced incidence of prolonged length of stay (3.7% vs 4.0%, p < 0.01). Conclusions Our collaborative statewide analysis demonstrated that even 1 unit of blood was associated with significantly worse survival and longer length of stay after CABG. Multiinstitutional quality initiatives may seek to address discretionary transfusions and possess the potential to improve patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-136
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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