Reduced transfusions in Twin Cities cut costs, improved safety

Minneapolis and St. Paul hospitals have drastically reduced their use of donated blood in the last five years, cutting costs and leading to fewer complications from blood transfusions, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.

For example, the Minneapolis-based Allina Health says that its 12 hospitals have used 4,000 fewer units of blood since early 2010, when it implemented research-based standards that cut both the number of anemic patients receiving post-surgery transfusions and the amount of blood per transfusion, according to the article.

Transfusions are classified as "liquid transplants," and carry with them the risk of longer hospital stays, hospital-acquired infections and hypervolemia, or an excess of blood in the veins. These risks have led hospitals to take steps to decrease blood use. Their primary method is lowering the amount of hemoglobin in the blood required to determine whether a transfusion is necessary. This threshold was eight to 10 grams per deciliter for years, but in 2012, the American Association of Blood Banks lowered it to seven, according to the article.

Twin Cities Hospitals are also using less blood per transfusion, which results in significant savings as testing and shipping donated blood typically costs $200 to $300 per unit, according to the Star-Tribune. It was long believed that transfusion patients required at least two units, but more recent research indicates transfusions with only one unit are both equally effective and safer.

"[Y]ou can really see the difference," Kathrine Frey, M.D., who has led blood usage reduction efforts at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina, Minn., told the Star-Tribune. "You bring the blood units down, you know the patients are safer and you save the hospital significant money."

A 2012 study found that overuse of transfusions was a major driver of unnecessary care, with prices estimated to be as much as $1,100 per unit for purchase, testing, storage and transportation, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the Star-Tribune article

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