Objective Blood transfusion remains an integral step in the management of acute non-variceal upper gastrointestinal bleeding (NV-UGIB), but its safety is being increasingly questioned in less severe cases. The authors aimed to measure 30-day and 2-year mortalities after blood transfusion for NV-UGIB.
Methods Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate the association of blood transfusion with mortality while adjusting for age, Charlson comorbidity score, the complete Rockall score for acute UGIB, admission status and medication intake prior to bleeding.
Main outcome measures Death from any cause at 30 days and 2 years after NV-UGIB.
Results 1340 patients presented with NV-UGIB< (808 men (60.3%), median age 67 years) of whom 564 (42.1%) were transfused. The overall mortality was 5.3% at 30 days and 26.0% at 2 years in all patients. Comparing subjects with a haemoglobin concentration greater than 10.0 g/dl who were transfused with those who were not, 30-day mortalities (95% CIs) were 11.5% (6.7 to 18.0) versus 3.6% (2.3 to 5.3), respectively, p<0.001, and 2-year mortalities (95% CIs) were 40% (32 to 49) versus 20% (17 to 23), p<0.001. After adjusting for age, Charlson score, Rockall score and haemoglobin, the HRs (95% CIs) for death after transfusion were 1.88 (1.00 to 3.55) (p=0.051) at 30 days and 1.71 (1.28 to 2.28), (p<0.001) at 2 years.
Conclusion In patients with moderately severe NV-UGIB, mortality is higher following blood transfusion. Whether this reflects selection bias, an effect of comorbidity or an effect of transfusion requires urgent prospective study.
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Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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