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BACKGROUND: Meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating thresholds for red blood cell (RBC) transfusion typically focus on mortality; however, other outcomes are highly relevant. The aim of this study is to summarize the effects of different transfusion thresholds on the outcomes of quality of life (QoL) and function. STUDY DESIGN: We extracted data from RCTs identified in a recently published Cochrane systematic review. Primary analysis was descriptive. RESULTS: A total of 23 RCTs with 13,743 adult participants were included. Fifteen RCTs included patients in the postoperative period, of which 9 RCTs were conducted in hip (n = 3024) and 6 (n = 8672) in cardiac surgeries; 5 RCTs (n = 489) were in patients with hematological malignancies; 2 in the setting of bleeding (gastrointestinal bleed [n = 936] and postpartum [n = 521]); and one RCT (n = 936) included critically ill patients. QoL and function were reported using a variety of questionnaires and tools. The timing of assessments varied between trials. No clear clinical differences in QoL outcomes were identified in comparisons between restrictive and liberal transfusion thresholds. DISCUSSION: There is no evidence that a liberal transfusion strategy improves QoL and functional outcomes. However, the substantial limitations of many included studies indicate the need for further well-designed and adequately powered trials.

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hemoglobin thresholds, quality of life, transfusion