Pre-hospital transfusion of red blood cells. Part 2: A systematic review of treatment effects on outcomes

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The primary aim of this systematic review is to describe the effects of prehospital transfusion of red blood cells (PHTRBC) on patient outcomes. Damage control resuscitation attempts to prevent death through haemorrhage in trauma patients. In this context, transfusion of red blood cells is increasingly used by emergency medical services (EMS). However, evidence on the effects on outcomes is scarce. PubMed and Web of Science were searched through January 2019; 55 articles were included. No randomised controlled studies were identified. While several observational studies suggest an increased survival after PHTRBC, consistent evidence for beneficial effects of PHTRBC on survival was not found. PHTRBC appears to improve haemodynamic parameters, but there is no evidence that shock on arrival to hospital is averted, nor of an association with trauma induced coagulopathy or with length of stay in hospitals or intensive care units. In conclusion, PHTRBC is increasingly used by EMS, but there is no strong evidence for effects of PHTRBC on mortality. Further research with study designs that allow causal inferences is required for more conclusive evidence. The combination of PHTRBC with plasma, as well as the use of individualised transfusion criteria, may potentially show more benefits and should be thoroughly investigated in the future. The review was registered at Prospero (CRD42018084658).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-133
Number of pages28
JournalTransfusion Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

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