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International News

Aussies Getting Blood Transfusions When Not Needed

May 15, 2008

Up to 30 percent of non-urgent blood transfusions in Australia are unnecessary and possibly dangerous, and they occur partly due to a misperception that a blood "pep up" is good for patients, a health expert warned Tuesday.

Speaking at an Australasian surgery conference in Hong Kong, Cliff Hughes, CEO of the New South Wales Clinical Excellence Commission, said many surgeons approve blood transfusions because of a general belief that they improve healing and speed up patient recovery. "This is in fact very untrue, especially for elective surgery patients who are basically healthy when they go into their operations, and for patients who aren't bleeding and aren't anemic. But many of these people are getting transfusions when they absolutely shouldn't."

The rate of complications in transfusions is significant, said Hughes. Human error, incompatibility reactions, immune system problems, and bacterial infections are all risks association with transfusion. "Also unnecessary blood transfusions can be deadly because of what can be transmitted through the blood like HIV or hepatitis C and B," said the former heart surgeon. "There is real risk involved."

Dr. Tim McCullough, a Sydney-based anesthetist, agreed, adding that unnecessary transfusions waste a scarce resource.

Back to other news for May 2008

Adapted from:
Australian Associated Press
05.13.2008; Tamara McLean

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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