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Blood transfusions increase fatal infections in heart surgery

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The risk of dying during heart surgery is increased five-fold by infections carried in blood transfusions, according to research published in the journal BMC Medicine.

The research reports a 0.13% increase in predicted infection rates for every 1% increase in the frequency of blood transfusions.

Infections included those of the urinary system, lungs, bloodstream, digestive tract and skin, as well as a significant number of Clostridium difficile cases.

The small minority of patients receiving ‘autologous’ transfusions - their own stored blood - fared far better, as did those who had no blood transfusion at all.

Says study leader Dr Mary Rogers, from the University of Michigan: ‘The safety of patients undergoing a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) will likely be improved if hospitals … institute interventions to reduce inappropriate use of blood transfusions.’

The infection rate among those receiving donor blood was 18% compared with 9.7% of patients only receiving their own blood, and 6.6% when no transfusion was carried out. Overall, 16.2% suffered a hospital infection.

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