BACKGROUND: In vitro data suggest that erythrocytes undergo storage time-dependent degradation, eventuating in hemolysis. We hypothesize that transfusion of old blood, as compared with newer blood, results in a smaller increment in hematocrit.
METHODS: We performed an analysis of packed red blood cell transfusions administered in the surgical intensive care unit. Age of blood was analyzed as continuous, dichotomized at 14 days (old vs new), and grouped by weeks old.
RESULTS: A total of 136 U of packed red blood cells were given to 52 patients; 110 (80.9%) were 14 days old or more. A linear, inverse correlation was observed between the age of blood and the increment in hematocrit (r(2) = -.18, P = .04). The increment in hematocrit was greater after transfusion of new as compared with old blood (5.6% vs 3.5%, respectively; P = .005). A linear relationship also was observed between the age of transfused blood in weeks and the increment in hematocrit (P = .02).
CONCLUSIONS: There is an inverse relationship between the age of blood and the increment in hematocrit. The age of blood should be considered before transfusion of surgical patients with intensive care unit anemia.