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BACKGROUND: Patient blood management (PBM) interventions aim to improve clinical outcomes by reducing bleeding and transfusion. We assessed whether existing evidence supports the routine use of combinations of these interventions during and after major surgery. METHODS: Five systematic reviews and a National Institute of Health and Care Excellence health economic review of trials of common PBM interventions enrolling participants of any age undergoing surgery were updated. The last search was on June 1, 2019. Studies in trauma, burns, gastrointestinal haemorrhage, gynaecology, dentistry, or critical care were excluded. The co-primary outcomes were: risk of receiving red cell transfusion and 30-day or hospital all-cause mortality. Treatment effects were estimated using random-effects models and risk ratios (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Heterogeneity assessments used I2. Network meta-analyses used a frequentist approach. The protocol was registered prospectively (PROSPERO CRD42018085730). RESULTS: Searches identified 393 eligible randomised controlled trials enrolling 54 917 participants. PBM interventions resulted in a reduction in exposure to red cell transfusion (RR=0.60; 95% CI 0.57, 0.63; I2=77%), but had no statistically significant treatment effect on 30-day or hospital mortality (RR=0.93; 95% CI 0.81, 1.07; I2=0%). Treatment effects were consistent across multiple secondary outcomes, sub-groups and sensitivity analyses that considered clinical setting, type of intervention, and trial quality. Network meta-analysis did not demonstrate additive benefits from the use of multiple interventions. No trial demonstrated that PBM was cost-effective. CONCLUSIONS: In randomised trials, PBM interventions do not have important clinical benefits beyond reducing bleeding and transfusion in people undergoing major surgery.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Anaesth

Publication Date



bleeding, cost, effectiveness, haematology, network, patient blood management, surgery, transfusion