Neurocritical Care

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 4–9 | Cite as

Effect of a liberal versus restrictive transfusion strategy on mortality in patients with moderate to severe head injury

  • Lauralyn A. McIntyre
  • Dean A. Fergusson
  • James S. Hutchison
  • Giuseppe Pagliarello
  • John C. Marshall
  • Elizabeth Yetisir
  • Gregory M. T. Hare
  • Paul C. Hébert
  • Canadian Critical Care Trials Group
Original Article



To compare a restrictive versus a liberal transfusion strategy in patients with moderate to severe closed head injury following multiple trauma in 13 Canadian intensive care units (ICUs).


This is a subgroup analysis of a multicenter randomized controlled clinical trial involving sixty-seven critically ill patients from the Transfusion Requirements in the Critical Care trial who sustained a closed head injury. Patients had a hemoglobin concentration less than 9.0 g/dL within 72 hours of admission to the ICU. Patients were randomized to a restrictive allogeneic red blood cell transfusion strategy (hemoglobin 7.0 g/dL and maintained between 7.0 and 9.0 g/dL) or a liberal strategy (hemoglobin 10.0 g/dL and maintained between 10.0 and 12.0 g/dL).


Baseline characteristics in the restrictive (n=29) and the liberal (n=38) transfusion groups were comparable. Average hemoglobin concentrations and red blood cell units transfused per patient were significantly lower in the restrictive compared to the liberal group. The 30-day all-cause mortality rates in the restrictive group were 17% as compared to 13% in the liberal group (risk difference 4.1 with 95% confidence interval [CI], 13.4 to 21.5, p=0.64). Presence of multiple organ dysfunction (12.1±6.4 versus 10.6±6.3, p=0.35) and changes in multiple organ dysfunction from baseline scores adjusted for death (4.5±6.2 versus 3.4±6.2, p=0.49) were similar between the restrictive and liberal transfusion groups, respectively. Median length of stay in ICU (10 days, interquartile range 5 to 21 days versus 8 days, interquartile range 5 to 11 days, p=0.26) and hospital (27 days, interquartile range 14 to 39 days versus 30.5 days, interquartile range 17 to 47 days, p=0.72) were similar between the restrictive and liberal transfusion groups.


We were unable to detect significant improvements in mortality with a liberal as compared to restrictive transfusion strategy in critically ill trauma victims with moderate to severe head injury.

Key Words

Critical care brain injuries wounds and injuries erythrocyte transfusion randomized controlled trial 


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Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauralyn A. McIntyre
    • 1
  • Dean A. Fergusson
    • 1
  • James S. Hutchison
    • 2
  • Giuseppe Pagliarello
    • 3
  • John C. Marshall
    • 4
  • Elizabeth Yetisir
    • 5
  • Gregory M. T. Hare
    • 6
  • Paul C. Hébert
    • 1
  • Canadian Critical Care Trials Group
  1. 1.Centre for Transfusion Research and Clinical Epidemiology ProgramOttawa Health Research InstituteOttawa
  2. 2.Departments of Critical Care and Pediatrics, Hospital for Sick ChildrenUniversity of TorontoOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Critical Care ProgramThe Ottawa HospitalOttawaCanada
  4. 4.Department of Surgery, Critical Care ProgramUniversity of TorontoOttawaCanada
  5. 5.University of Ottawa Heart InsituteOttawaCanada
  6. 6.Department of Anesthesia and PhysiologyUniversity of Toronto, St. Michael's HospitalTorontoCanada

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