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Blood transfusion study supports standard of care

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UTHealth researchers Bryan Cotton, M.D., Jeanette Podbielski, R.N., and their colleagues recently announced the results of a blood transfusion study.

HOUSTON – (Feb. 28, 2014) – When severely injured patients arrive in an emergency center requiring a blood transfusion, they are typically given blood components such as plasma and red blood cells. But, would they be better off receiving whole blood instead?

To find out, researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School ran a head-to-head comparison of blood components and whole blood and found little difference between the two in a clinical study conducted at the Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute.

Whole blood did not reduce the amount of blood product volumes nor was there a difference in the 24-hour and 30-day survival rates between the two groups. However, among patients without severe brain injuries, whole blood reduced the amount of overall blood transfused.

The findings appear in the October edition of the Annals of Surgery.

Since the early 1980s, the standard of care at blood centers has been to separate plasma, platelets and red blood cells shortly after donation in an effort to prolong the shelf life of donated blood and to provide specific parts of blood to more patients.

The research team led by principal investigator Bryan Cotton, M.D., associate professor of surgery at the UTHealth Medical School and trauma surgeon at the Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute, examined whether using units of whole blood could decrease the number of blood products transfused. In other words, is the whole blood unit greater than the sum of its parts? This study also set out to determine if there was an improvement in patient survival with the use of whole blood.  The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The trauma physicians enrolled patients who met the particular criteria set forth for the study. One of these specifications required the medical team to begin emergency treatment without first obtaining an informed consent from the patient or a legal representative and/or family member. All reasonable attempts were made to obtain permission to continue the study from the family and/or patient.  

Study enrollment began on May 23, 2011 and ended July 31, 2012.  Of the 1,695 patients screened, a total of 81 were randomized and received study blood products.

For more information, contact study co-author and UTHealth clinical research program manager Jeanette Podbielski, R.N., at 713-500-6407 or Cotton’s clinic office at 713-500-7313.

Rob Cahill
Media Contact: 713-500-3030