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Old Blood As Good As Fresh in Critically Ill Patients

Trial shows that changes to blood during storage do not affect quality

TUESDAY, March 17, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Blood that’s been stored for a few weeks is just as beneficial as fresh blood for patients with life-threatening conditions who require transfusions, a new study shows. The study was published online March 17 in the New England Journal of Medicine to coincide with the International Symposium on Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, held from March 17 to 20 in Brussels.

The study included more than 2,400 adult intensive care patients who received either older blood (stored an average of 22 days) or fresh blood (stored an average of six days). Over 90 days of follow-up, there were 430 deaths among the 1,219 patients (35.3 percent) who received older blood and 448 deaths among the 1,211 patients (37.0 percent) who received fresh blood.

“Previous observational and laboratory studies have suggested that fresh blood may be better because of the breakdown of red blood cells and accumulation of toxins during storage,” study co-leader Alan Tinmouth, M.D., a physician and scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the University of Ottawa, said in a research institute news release. “But this definitive clinical trial clearly shows that these changes do not affect the quality of blood.”

Under current standards, blood is stored up to 42 days, but many doctors ask for fresh blood because they feel it is better. This study shows there is no need to worry about the safety of older blood, the researchers said.

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