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Neil Blumberg

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Neil Blumberg last won the day on August 22

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    Hematologist/Transfusion Medicine Physician

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  1. Just to state the obvious, if you are using pathogen reduced platelets, no testing is needed. That has been our choice due to (1) it's a superior method for preventing viral, bacterial, parasite transmission and (2) the logistics of testing 20-30 platelets per day are formidable and not without significant expense for materials, labor, QC, proficiency and competency. If your supplier provides the option of pathogen reduced, I would go that direction despite the increased expense.
  2. As for pediatrics, we have an attached children's hospital, Golisano Children's Hospital of the University of Rochester. We have a blood management program but it has proven difficult to find evidence based transfusion criteria for the main blood components, red cells, platelets and plasma. There has been some reluctance to change practice lacking evidence, which is understandable. Pediatric practice, with perhaps the exception of anesthesiology and critical care, seems based upon older understandings of transfusion that it was "very effective and not very risky." The reverse is almost certainly true in most clinical settings, other than life threatening bleeding and/or anemia. Therapeutic minimalism, rather than maximalism is called for, in my view. Witness the use of 20-30 ml/kg of red cells or whole blood in the recent NEJM trial in Africa. These doses would be fatal to a substantial number of adult patients. Thus changing practice in pediatrics should probably focus initially on appropriate dosing to start with. Our typical adult doses for red cells are in the range of 3-5 ml/kg and for platelets and plasma not much more, and certainly not more than 10 ml/kg. Since there is a dose dependent increase in nosocomial infection, thrombosis, inflation and mortality with red cell transfusion that is in part causal, these practices are likely not in the patient's best interest, despite representing "state of the art 1985 expert opinion." There is not a shred of evidence that WHO's guideline of 20 ml/kg is effective and safe, to my knowledge. The general guidance of hemoglobin 7 and hematocrit of 21 as boundaries for numbers (as opposed to clinically) driven red cell transfusion has reasonably strong evidence based (randomized trials) in children. Platelet transfusion and plasma transfusion have minimal evidence base, but the prophylactic threshold of 10,000/µl for non-bleeding children with hematologic malignancies seems reasonably evidence based. There is essentially no evidence to guide plasma transfusion, so my general approach is "don't do it" unless there is life threatening bleeding not treatable by anything other than massive transfusion.
  3. And to give credit where credit is due, whatever I have achieved has been with the invaluable contributions of my collaborators, including physicians, scientists, medical technologists and nurses. In particular, my most important collaborator has been my wife, Dr. Joanna Heal MBBS, MRCP, whose brilliance and dedication to patient care made all the difference. That's her in the picture :).
  4. Malcolm, my sincere appreciation of your kind words. I've enjoyed and learned from your comments on this website.
  5. And to answer the initial question, yes, one monitors such features as service line specific use of blood transfusions, correcting for case mix and hospital days. Examples of metrics are red cells per admission or platelets per hospital day. Monitored quarterly or semi-annually. Change is slow so there is no need to monitor things on a daily, weekly or monthly basis in most cases. Can verify the improvement in clinical outcomes by metrics such as complication rates (central line infections, UTIs, etc.).
  6. Patient Blood Management is a comprehensive, multi-modal approach to reduce/prevent anemia prevalence and reduce transfusions to only those that are life saving or absolutely essential. While the AABB has some materials and interest, they are relatively less likely to explain to you that the primary rationale is that anemia and transfusions are mostly harmful to patients in current practices. The pre-eminent organization in the USA in this matter is SABM. The founders of PBM include anesthesiologists such as Aryeh Shander at Englewood Hospital and Tim Hannon at St. Vincents, who saw that (1) Jehovah's Witnesses who refused transfusions actually had better outcomes than similar transfused patients and (2) transfused patients had dose dependent increases in nosocomial infection, thrombosis, multi-organ failure and mortality in the literature and their own practices. In other words, less is better. None is best when possible. Needless to say, the initial reaction in the blood banking and transfusion medicine community was lukewarm at best when these ideas were first put forward a couple of decades ago. But preventing anemia by doing fewer lab tests, and less frequent lab tests has begun to catch on in some places. See: https://www.sabm.org/patient-blood-management-programs/ Good place to get some initial education and join if of interest. A typical PBM program will include a part-time medical director (often an anesthesiologist, intensivist or hematologist, but also surgeons, transfusion medicine physicians, and other specialties) and one or more full-time nurses or medical technologists who focus on educating practitioners about current practices. You need a clinical champion at the bedside who other practitioners respect and will listen to. Changing practices is arduous and sometimes rather unpleasant work. When Bernard Fisher showed that the Halstead radical mastectomy for breast cancer was harmful to patients, the initial reaction was anger, disbelief and pushback. So it sometimes is with PBM. Physicians change their practices slowly or not at all. At our institution, PBM is heavily weighted towards collaborations between specialties, including, for example, an anemia management program prior to cardiac surgery, advocating restrictive transfusion practices where there is evidence (and there is tons of evidence that liberal practices are lethal at worst, wasteful at best). Happy to answer further questions.
  7. "Leukoreduction reduces platelet function drastically on whole blood therefore it is not leuko reduced." I don't believe the word drastically is correct. The differences are slight and, as I recall, only in platelet aggregation, which has no known relationship to clinical efficacy of platelet transfusions. Absence of leukoreduction will almost certainly increase the risk of nosocomial infection, multi-organ failure and mortality for the patients who survive the hemorrhagic emergency. In addition, non-leukoreduced whole blood will have higher levels of hemolysis in vitro and likely in the patient due to damage to the red cells. Free hemoglobin, heme and iron levels in the patient are associated with increased mortality in recipients of transfusions. I would suggest the choice not to leukoreduce will cause net harm to patients. The minimal changes, if any are of clinical relevance, in platelet efficacy are not worth the risk, in my opinion, of well documented complications of allogeneic leukocyte infusion.
  8. Pathogen reduction prevents lymphocyte proliferation and thus is practically speaking equivalent to irradiation. Whole blood platelets are pathogen reduced in some parts of Europe, but the manufacturers have not put forward these methods for FDA approval in the USA. A serious mistake and waste of resources. In any case, apheresis platelets carry a higher rate of some transfusion adverse events (TRALI, for example) in French hemovigilance data, so why one would preferentially use pathogen reduced platelets that are single donor rather than pooled whole blood is beyond me. We used to use 100% whole blood platelets as a socially responsible use of donor resources, particularly as apheresis platelets carry no proven health benefits for patients (donor exposure is a straw man in this instance, given the low risk of infectious disease transmission, and it's irrelevance in the pathogen reduction era). We are using close to 100% apheresis simply because that's the only pathogen reduced platelet product available. As I said, a terrible mistake in my view. But better apheresis platelets than non-pathogen reduced is our decision. We'd welcome use of whole blood pathogen reduced platelets as a much more responsible use of donor's time and safety given that whole blood platelets are essentially now a wasted, low cost scrap product. Much less expensive, and we think safer than apheresis platelets for most patients.
  9. The simplest solution and the clinically superior one is to use pathogen reduced platelets (at the cost of $100+ more per transfusion). Bacterial testing will not prevent all bacterial contamination events in any case, and pathogen reduction pretty much will do that. In addition, pathogen reduction is the future of transfused blood (and no lesser expert than Harvey Alter, the co-discoverer of both Hepatitis B and C, has stated this). There will be viruses we don't know about and cannot immediately test for that come around the way HIV did, and pathogen reduction addresses these future pathogens, including present realities such as babesiosis, malaria, etc. We then could stop testing for pretty much everything if we wanted to, including useless tests like syphilis, Zika, etc. (These diseases are not known to be transfusion transmitted with current practices). That would save a little money, but awaits (1) pathogen reduction technology for whole blood and (2) the FDA and various states agreeing the redundant testing makes no sense from a clinical standpoint. Good luck with the latter :). We are close to 100% pathogen reduced for platelets in our center, and the cost was about $500,000 per year. Of course, one or two cases of post-platelet transfusion sepsis in a patient with neutropenia will pay for that in avoiding ICU stays, etc. If you are a small hospital and transfuse a few platelets per month, the extra few thousand dollars per year for pathogen reduction is easily recouped in reduced staff training time for bacterial testing, logistic nightmares and other complexities. Plus it's a superior approach to reducing risk to patients. To me, it's a no brainer, but your mileage may vary.
  10. As long as the low titer whole blood is really low titer (say <50 or so; not 200), I don't see any major disadvantage in using low titer group O whole blood for trauma patients of unknown ABO type. For those of known ABO type, ABO identical is no doubt preferable, whether whole blood or components. We really don't have any comparative data except in trauma patients of unknown ABO type. Comparisons of ABO identical components versus low titer group O whole blood for everyone are simply not available in any form, to my knowledge. Would make a very important and useful randomized trial, but no one seems particularly interested in doing the work and incurring the expense, including the military who have sponsored most of this work. Lots of assumptions being made, but not much data at present. We know AB plasma given to group O recipients (about 45% of trauma transfusions) is associated with a significant increase in mortality from Swedish national data, so perhaps group O whole blood, if low titer, may actually be safer than traditional component resuscitation in patients of unknown ABO type. At least the 45% of patients are group O will be getting ABO identical instead of the 5% now occurring (thanks to our giving AB plasma to everyone).
  11. If you read the paper carefully, the major difference in outcomes is reoperation and other complications clearly unrelated to transfusion triggers. Poor choice of endpoints and data analysis and totally non-credible conclusion regarding clinical outcomes in my view. The immense body of data showing that restrictive transfusion is not only safer but likely superior tells us this is a small pilot study with little to no real meaning for clinical practice. Cannot imagine what the reviewers were thinking when they let them publish this with these conclusions in the current form.
  12. Most patients with IgA deficiency and even with anti-IgA do not have anaphylactic or allergic reactions. Unless she has a history of anaphylaxis/atopy I wouldn't worry. In an hemorrhagic emergency, just transfuse and, as always, have some epinephrine on hand for reactions. It's well established now that most anaphylactic reactions happen in atopic patients and IgA deficiency has nothing to do with it, in general. See work by Gerald Sandler, et al. on the subject or listen to the Blood Bank Guy podcast by Sandler. Be happy, don't worry.
  13. While TRALI can be caused by both HLA class I and II antibodies (these antigens are present on most cells (class I) and antigen presenting cells (class II) and HNA (human neutrophil antigens present only on neutrophils in most cases), most respiratory distress after transfusions is caused by other mediators (lipids, CD40L and probably free hemoglobin and heme) and does not require any specific workup of the donor as antibodies are involved only in a few cases (we haven't seen one in years). Some folks in the field do wish to perform antibody studies, but I think they are largely a waste of time, except for transfused or multiparous patients. Others are extremely unlikely to have antibodies in the donor blood. As evidence for these controversial remarks, one need only examine the hemovigilance data from Quebec which found that red cells were primarily involved, which argues against antibodies as a cause in most cases, as there is very little plasma in red cell concentrates. But you might as well follow the standard of practice in your area as to donor workup. I would only send out antibody testing on donors who have a history of transfusion or pregnancy.
  14. I think these bureaucratic methods corrode the trust and collegiality felt by our bedside practice colleagues. High risk patients require discussion between the medical staff of the transfusion service and the ordering provider, and a note in the medical record documenting the decision making. Signing forms is a another tip of the hat to bureaucracy and legalese that should have no role in the provision of medical care. A joint responsibility for such decisions and documentation is far more humane and in the interests of good patient care. Neither the FDA nor regulatory agencies require such divisive practices and we should abandon them for better patient care and documentation of shared decision making. I realize some of you do not have knowledgeable and enthusiastic physician support, but this responsibility needs to be taken by the transfusion service medical director, who is paid to do so, however reluctant and happy to dump this on medical technologists. Just saying.
  15. Just to confuse things a bit, there is absolutely no evidence that fresher units of red cells, or hemoglobin AA units are superior for neonates (or anyone else). The potassium can be an issue, but some fresher units have very high potassiums as well. We define fresh for everyone as 21 days of storage or less. We wash transfusions for newborns in the ICU, or others with high potassium levels, which fixes the potassium issue (I realize this isn't feasible at many hospitals). But I would not worry overly much about storage duration. If concerned, measure the supernatant potassium in a few units and give the one that is lowest. All hospitals can readily measure potassium so why not do that if you are concerned? Storage duration is a poor surrogate for actually measuring potassium. As for CMV seronegative, it's totally unnecessary if the unit is leukoreduced. Not a shred of evidence that it helps and it may preselect for donors who are infected but pre-seroconversion. Save yourself the expense and aggravation and eliminate the use of CMV seronegative units, and convert to 100% leukoreduction if you haven't done that. There are randomized trial data and many observational studies showing the clinical benefits of leukoreduction, including fewer episodes of nosocomial infection, the major cause of hospital morbidity and mortality. Sermon over :).
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