Transfusion services have used various techniques to reduce blood product utilization. Given the potential adverse effects of transfusions and the resources consumed in implementing strategies to reduce transfusions, there is a need to understand their effectiveness. Therefore, we performed a systematic review of the literature to examine the effectiveness of behavioral interventions to reduce blood product utilization.
We identified all relevant articles through the use of electronic searches of MEDLINE and EMBASE, as well as hand searches of review articles and personal files. The electronic searches included articles published between January 1966 and May 2003. The searches included the terms blood transfusion, plasma exchange, guidelines, education, practice patterns, and professional practice. The outcomes of interest were the number of units transfused and the proportion of patients who received transfusions.
Nineteen studies examining the effectiveness of single (guidelines, prospective audits, retrospective audits, and reminders) or multifaceted interventions in reducing red blood cell, platelet, plasma, cryoprecipitate, and albumin transfusions met the inclusion criteria. Eighteen studies demonstrated a relative reduction in the number of units given (range, 9%-77%) or the proportion of patients receiving transfusions (range, 17%-79%). The reported reductions were qualitatively similar for the different blood products studied. No particular intervention or combination of interventions appeared more effective in reducing utilization.
Behavioral interventions, including simple interventions, appear to be effective in changing physician transfusion practices and reducing blood utilization. Appropriately designed clinical trials are still needed to determine the relative effectiveness of different interventions to change practices.
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